October 13, 2016 - 2:03 PM
VANCOUVER - The B.C. Lions wanted to make something abundantly clear this week: one play didn't cost them the game.
Trailing the host Blue Bombers 37-33 late in the fourth quarter Saturday, a desperate Lions defence stripped running back Andrew Harris and recovered the ball inside Winnipeg's five-yard line with less than a minute left on the clock.
It looked for a moment as if B.C. had earned a reprieve and a last gasp at victory after getting stuffed in the same part of the field on back to back plays seconds earlier. But the officials ruled Harris down by contact, and even though some replay angles seemed to strongly suggest otherwise, the CFL's command centre upheld the decision after video review in what would turn into a gut-wrenching 37-35 defeat.
Social media exploded in the immediate aftermath, with fans and pundits skewering the league for what many perceived to be a blown call.
The Lions, however, bit their collective tongue and kept it up ahead of Friday's crucial rematch at B.C. Place Stadium, a game that could go a long way in deciding second place in the West Division.
"There's so many different plays besides that one play," said Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian. "Obviously that play was big, but what are you going to do? You can't do anything about it. You've just got to move on.
"Championship clubs don't dwell on things they can't control."
One thing B.C. (9-5) can control is its red-zone efficiency after scoring just two touchdowns in five trips last weekend against Winnipeg (9-6), while the club was also on it heels early, facing a 24-3 deficit in the second quarter before rallying to take the lead.
"We just look at it as: 'We can't let it get to that point,'" said B.C. wide receiver Bryan Burnham, who caught nine passes for a career-high 208 yards against the Blue Bombers. "We can't be in a position where we leave it up to: 'Maybe the refs make a good call, maybe the refs don't.'"
The defence also remains a question mark, but two early interceptions from Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings didn't help matters, and other facets of B.C.'s game, including special teams and discipline, compounded the situation.
The Lions need to beat the Blue Bombers by three points or more on Friday to win the season series between the clubs and remain in the driver's seat for second in the West behind the Calgary Stampeders (13-1-1). Both clubs have already clinched a spot in the post-season — Winnipeg for the first time since 2011, while B.C. is in for the 20th straight year — but each has designs on a home playoff date.
"We have guys stepping up making big plays when we need big plays to be made," Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols told reporters in Winnipeg this week. "That's what winning football is. It's never one person."
Winnipeg is 8-2 over its last 10 games following a 1-4 start, while B.C. has alternated wins and losses the last four outings and is just 2-4 against the West after last week's controversial disappointment in the Manitoba capital.
"You can't cry over spilled milk," said Elimimian. "We have another opportunity Friday and we're going to make sure we take advantage of it."
Notes: Harris, who spent six seasons with the Lions, will play his first game as a visitor at B.C. Place. ... The Blue Bombers have a bye week after visiting Vancouver before playing a home-and-away series with Ottawa to close out the regular season. The Lions have three games left after Friday: home to Edmonton and two matchups with Saskatchewan.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016