Jonathon Jennings and the BC Lions offence were dominant on Friday night. Through the air and on the ground, the Lions picked their way through the Montreal Alouettes defence in what was possibly their strongest offensive performance all year. The Alouettes fought back in the second half, but the Lions managed to close out the game and win comfortably by a score of 38-27.
“We just executed,” said Jennings. “To be able to start out fast, maintain it throughout the middle of the game and then close it out, that’s huge.” Jennings completed 24-of-33 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown, in what was one of sharpest performances as the Lions starting pivot.
To call it a “fast” start, might be an understatement. On their first drive of the game, it took three plays to find the end zone. After a long run by Jeremiah Johnson, Jennings went deep to Manny Arceneaux for an early touchdown.
BC’s early dominance continued, as they went on to score two more touchdowns on their following two drives, both on runs from Johnson. Lions head coach Wally Buono was impressed with the early offensive success. “Great teams score points. If you can score points you beat anybody,” said Buono. “The fact that (the offence) did what they did early in the game, sets the tone for the whole game. Montreal has a very good defence, and our guys today, outplayed them.”
After taking a 24-6 lead into halftime, the first slip up by the offence came early in second half. Jennings completed a pass to Geraldo Boldewijn, who fumbled the ball, which was scooped and taken to the end zone for a touchdown by Alouettes linebacker Chip Cox. The Lions were not rattled by their mistake. On the ensuing possession, Jennings lead a surgical drive deep into Montreal territory, which was capped off by a one-yard Travis Lulay touchdown run. Buono praised his team for how they quickly responded to take back control of the game. “They believe in each other, and they support each other,” said Buono. “When (Boldewijn) fumbled, I didn’t hear any grumbling; I just heard guys buckle their chinstraps and get back to work.”
The Lions turned to the run game in the fourth quarter to run out the clock. Johnson capped off his incredible night with a third touchdown to put the game out of reach. Johnson averaged nearly ten yards per carry, rushing 16 times for 159 yards. This was the highest rushing total for any CFL running back in the 2016 season. Johnson gave credit to the entire offence for his impressive game. “It’s not just me,” said Johnson. “I got to give kudos to my lineman up there, and (Lions offensive coordinator Khari Jones) for making great calls,” said Johnson. “My guys made blocks, and I was just trying to make right cuts and hit the holes.”
The dominant play of the offensive line is what impressed Buono most in his team’s win. “They were outstanding both against the pressure and also running the football…For our guys to step up the way they did, and be as physical as they were, you have to be very impressed.” Jennings also praised his offensive line for the holes that they created throughout the game. “Phenomenal,” said Jennings. “Those guys up front did a great job not only in run blocking but pass blocking as well. And when you got a guy like (Johnson) back there as well, it makes things pretty easy.”
Montreal quarterback Rakeem Cato finished the game 21-of-29 passes for 255 yards and one touchdown. The Alouettes offence did gain some late traction, as they finished the game with 27 points (seven on which came on the Boldewijn fumble). Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips thought his defensive unit could have been sharper. “I don’t feel like we were consistent enough,” said Phillips. “We played very well in the first half, but we always talk about finishing games and playing 60 minutes, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Despite heading into the game on a two-game winning streak, BC Place had another disappointing crowd of 18,107. Tonight’s effort had everything that a fan would want in an entertaining football game: a strong performance by an explosive offence led by a young, energetic QB, and most importantly, a win. The Lions head into a bye-week in sole possession of second place in the West Division. Following that, the Lions head to Edmonton to take on the Eskimos, so it will be three weeks until the Lions next play in front of their home fans. Perhaps this timing in unfortunate as Lions try to win their fans back, but after such a strong performance, it appears that things are looking up for the orange and black.