Heading into Saturday's game against the Calgary Stampeders, the key question for the B.C. Lions was if they could elevate their game from the inconsistency they'd shown through the first seven weeks and prove they belonged with the CFL's elite. They did just that, knocking off the Stampeders 26-22, but what's particularly interesting is that their victory didn't come from the typical heroes. In fact, quarterback Travis Lulay (16 completions on 28 attempts, a 57.1 per cent mark, for 223 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions) and running back Andrew Harris (56 yards on 13 carries, a 4.3 yard-per-carry average) underwhelmed, at least by their standards. With the offence not clicking, someone else had to step up, and one of the key contributions on that front came from returner Tim Brown and the much-maligned special teams unit. Here's what they did near the end of the first quarter right after Calgary tied the game at seven:
What's particularly impressive about this return is the elusiveness Brown shows. As B.C. head coach Mike Benevides told Lowell Ullrich of The Province, Brown's ability to make hard cuts was crucial here:
His first career kickoff return touchdown, a 97-yard romp in the first quarter, was validation that with a friendly block or two, there very much is room for juke and jive in football.
"It really is one of his best attributes. One of the coaches said he looked like Gayle Sayers out there with the jump-cuts he made," coach Mike Benevides said Sunday.
"We need everything more northsouth. We can't dance. Korey was indecisive. Sometimes, you have to feel good about getting seven yards. But when it all comes together, look out. That play was a watershed moment."
Brown's run, if plotted on a map, would look like the Serpentine River. He got an early block from fellow returner Stu Foord and went north towards the sideline.
Calgary kicker Rene Parades was completely paralyzed by a shoulder fake, and Brown headed south towards the centre of the field, twisting and weaving past three more pursuers on the way to the end zone. "Our guys had their guys locked up," said Brown, typically deflecting praise in the direction of his teammates. "I had the whole sideline to work with. I seen the kicker. I just cut, cut, cut the whole way. Every time I got a block, I was giving them moves. It made the creases bigger."
Brown gave plenty of credit to the blocking scheme devised by special teams coordinator Chuck McMann, but McMann told The Vancouver Sun's Mike Beamish it was Brown's ability to sense and avoid tackles that made this work:
“Once Tim gets through the initial blocks by the wedge, that’s when the athlete becomes an athlete,” McMann explained. “There were a couple of instances when a tackler was closing in on him. He could sense their presence. Then he made a break to put them off their stride. That’s something you can’t coach. It’s built into his DNA. It’s like he has sonar.”
That sonar certainly paid off for B.C. Saturday, and it paid off for Brown too. He was our special teams star of the week thanks to this return (and the 212 total return yards he picked up on the night), and the CFL announced him as the Gibson's Finest special teams player of the week Tuesday. If he keeps up these returns and keeps getting good blocks, we might see plenty more awards in his future.