Lions waste opportunity against injury-weakened Argos, falling 38-12 to Collaros and Steele

Heading into Tuesday night's Toronto Argonauts-B.C. Lions clash, it looked like the Lions had a great opportunity to make up ground on the teams ahead of them in the West Division. They entered the game at 3-1, with a reasonably-impressive 104-84 point differential and several solid showings in other statistical categories (with the league's fewest first downs, passing yards and total yards allowed), and they were facing a Toronto squad diminished by losing Ricky Ray and Chad Kackert to injuries and with even less fan support than usual thanks to kooky scheduling. However, the Lions' offence struggled, the defence couldn't stop Argos' backups Zach Collaros and Curtis Steele, and B.C. fell 38-12, dropping to 3-2 and wasting a golden opportunity to chase down Saskatchewan and Calgary.

Tuesday night's game wasn't a great one for the Lions in any capacity, except perhaps the kicking game. Veteran kicker/punter Paul McCallum had a solid night, averaging 44.7 yards on three punts and going four-for-four on field goals. However, those field goals were all from inside 20 yards (the longest was from 17 yards out), and that says a lot about B.C.'s offensive struggles. Against an Argo defence that entered Week Five conceding the most yards per game, the second-most passing yards per game and the second-most points per game, B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay threw for just 226 yards. He did complete 20 of his 29 passes (69 per cent), but threw an interception and no touchdowns. The Lions' ground game was a little better, with Andrew Harris collecting 108 yards on 16 carries (6.8 yards per carry), but they couldn't punch the ball into the end zone, and while they elected to successfully gamble on many third-and-ones at midfield, they opted for short McCallum field goals instead near the goal line. In the end, that wasn't enough.

The B.C. defence was a little better at first, but they had plenty of problems too. While they were able to keep Collaros and the Argonauts from running away with this one until partway through the third quarter, their numbers on the night weren't good. Collaros threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns, but perhaps most impressively, he completed 21 of 25 attempts (84 per cent). That kind of efficiency let the Argos keep moving the chains, and it led to their eventual breakthrough. Collaros also showed off his mobility, frequently scrambling to avoid pressure before making a key throw and also rushing eight times for 28 yards. Backup running back Steele filled in ably for Kackert as well, rushing 12 times for 74 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. It was a great offensive showing from Toronto, and a subpar overall defensive performance from the Lions.

There's no need for B.C. fans to panic just yet. They're still 3-2 even after this loss, they've played pretty well in most of their games this year. The 44-32 opening loss to Calgary was also problematic, but the Lions had made significant improvements since then. A one-game regression doesn't instantly sink them to the bottom of the league. They also get another golden opportunity this coming week, facing the basement-dwelling Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1-4) at home Monday. However, given the strength of the other top West Division teams (Saskatchewan's now 5-0 and dominating, while Calgary's 4-1 and looking very good), this may loom large as an opportunity missed for the Lions when end-of-the-season positioning battles roll around. The West Division war is far from over, but this may prove a crucial battle in it, and one the Lions lost.

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