Emmanuel Arceneaux lived up to his nickname on Saturday night. The 22,831 fans in attendance at BC Place were treated to “The Manny Show” in its finest form. Arceneaux pulled in eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He proved to be the key player for the Lions, as they ended a two-game slide with a 32-25 win over the Edmonton Eskimos.
Arceneaux’s biggest moment of the game came with under three minutes to play in the first half. With the Lions holding a 11-5 lead, quarterback Jonathon Jennings threw a ball at a tightly covered Arceneaux, who made the contested catch and shrugged off multiple defenders on his way into the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown, his second of the half. This play allowed the Lions to take a two-score lead into halftime, which set the tone for the rest of the game.
Arceneaux was quick to discuss his impressive game in the context of his team, as opposed to just his own effort. “People put so much pressure and emphasis on ‘The Manny Show,’” he said, “but I always tell them, it’s not about me…Teams are going to have to respect us as a whole. But when given an opportunity if my number’s called, I have to make those plays.”
After back-to-back games with multiple interceptions, Jennings was much more efficient in moving the ball in this contest. He finished 21-for-28 passes with 273 yards, two touchdowns, and no picks. The young pivot felt that the win was important for the winning culture of the team moving forward. “It was huge for the confidence of our team to realize our potential once again,” said Jennings. “We knew we had a good team, but we weren’t doing it the last couple of weeks. We weren’t finishing the games, but we did that tonight.”
In the first half, the Lions defense was able to hold Mike Reilly and the Eskimos’ number one ranked offence to just five points. Edmonton clearly made some big adjustments, because they came out roaring in the second half to score touchdowns on their first two possessions. The Lions offence was able to consistently respond by sustaining long drives in the second half. One led to a twenty-yard touchdown scamper by Jennings, and two other drives led to field goals to give the Lions a late 13 point lead. Reilly led the Eskimos down the field for a touchdown drive, to make it a one-score game with under a minute left. On the ensuing onside kick attempt, Eskimos kicker Sean Whyte kicked the ball out of bounds, and the Lions took possession to end the game.
The Eskimos defense had a lot of success moving the ball in the second half, but Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian said his unit did a job at limiting the Eskimos. “That was an explosive Edmonton offence, and we did a pretty good job of (limiting) big plays,” said Elimimian. “(Lions defensive coordinator) Mark Washington did a tremendous job of putting guys in the right position to make big plays. Obviously there’s things we can do to get better…We’ll watch the film and correct things that we can get better on, but given the explosiveness of their offence, I think we did a good job.”
Another player who continues to impress for the Lions is slotback Bryan Burnham. The third-year receiver caught five passes for 78 yards, but his efforts were felt in other ways too. Burnham had a huge block that allowed Jennings to have an open lane to the end zone on his touchdown run. Burnham noted that the full team effort was the emphasis for the team in the week of preparation. “I think that’s one of the things we were missing earlier in the season,” he said. “These last few weeks we’ve been working on that in practice. When you see your running back break a run or see your receiver make a catch, you get up field and try to get block to get him in the end zone. That’s what happened.”
After dropping two games in such devastating fashion, the Lions knew that something would have to change to give them the opportunity to finish games, as opposed to dropping them late. “There was a different focus tonight,” said Jennings. “Everyone just knew that they had to do their job…If everyone does their job, it comes together as a good team win, and that’s what we had tonight.”
With the win, the Lions move to 10-6, tied with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for second place in the West Division. Winnipeg, however, holds the tiebreaker, as they beat the Lions twice in the season series. If the Lions hope to reach their goal of a home playoff game, they will likely need to win both of their next two games against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and they will need the Bombers to lose at least one more game. At the very least, this game had the Lions moving back in the right direction and starting to round into shape for when games really start to matter.