SPORTS

Up and Down: B.C. Lions rue inconsistency in 2013 following playoff loss

11/12/2013 08:26 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
SURREY, B.C. - The B.C. Lions' final game of 2013 was a lot like the rest of their season.

Dominant at times, but also lacking in critical moments.

The Lions led the Saskatchewan Roughriders 25-16 through three quarters of Sunday's CFL West Division semifinal, only to be outscored 13-0 over the final 15 minutes of a heartbreaking 29-25 loss.

And although B.C. played one of its best games in that chilly Regina defeat, one theme was repeated over and over by the Lions as they cleaned out their lockers Tuesday — consistency, or a lack of it, throughout the entire campaign.

"What plagued us this year was we were a little bit inconsistent," said Lions quarterback Travis Lulay. "It's one thing to lose a football game when you play hard ... but we played some football games where it wasn't an effort thing (but) an execution thing or a focus thing.

"As a team, as a group, that consistency is where we were lacking. That's where we need to be better."

Lions head coach Mike Benevides saw his team go 11-7 in a regular season that included two three-game winning streaks and a three-game losing streak. During that skid, B.C. dropped two crucial October matchups with Saskatchewan, which ended up deciding home field advantage in the West semifinal.

"It was a season of inconsistency," said Benevides. "At certain times it was excellent, and at other times it wasn't. In order to be the team you want to be, you have to be (consistent) throughout."

Lulay, who missed six weeks with an injury to his throwing shoulder but played in the final regular-season game before starting Sunday, said those small details cost the Lions.

"Ultimately we ended up placing third (in the West Division) and playing on the road," said Lulay. "That can be the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs."

Added veteran Lions defensive back Dante Marsh: "Any time you have games where you're dominant in certain aspects of the game and then the following week it's like you didn't even show up — lack of consistency."

The Lions lost the 2012 West Division final to the Calgary Stampeders on a day where B.C. was not at its best. Benevides said Sunday's defeat in Saskatchewan hurts more because the Grey Cup hosts were there for the taking.

"We've had some bitter pills to swallow and this one will be tough just like all the rest of them," said Benevides, now 0-2 in the playoffs as a head coach. "It'll take some time before we get over this, but we will, and I know this: we're going to be better and I'm excited."

The Lions' biggest issue this season was running the football. Canadian back Andrew Harris finished third in the league in rushing with 998 yards, but B.C. was held without a 100-yard rusher for 11 straight games midway through the season.

The addition of former Lions running back Stefan Logan in early October helped balance the B.C. attack, culminating in the former NFLer's two touchdowns on the ground Sunday.

One constant was the play of the Lions' veteran defence, which finished tops in yards allowed (339.4 per game) and rushing yards (94.4 per game), while finishing second against the pass (245 per game).

That defence held Saskatchewan at bay for three quarters on Sunday before Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant took over.

"I felt like we were peaking at the right time," said Lions defensive end Keron Williams. "It's unfortunate that we let one slip through our hands at such a pivotal moment but I felt like everybody could feel the rise of our team going in the right direction when it mattered the most."

Win or lose, rosters always experience a certain amount of change in the off-season, but the Lions could have a much different look in 2014 because of a number of expiring contracts and the expansion draft to stock the Ottawa Redblacks.

B.C. Place Stadium is also be the site of the 102nd Grey Cup on Nov. 30, 2014, so the pressure to perform next season will be even greater.

"Even when you win, you look around the locker-room and you realize it's not going to be exactly the same next year," said Lulay. "The reality is (Sunday) was the last time this group of 42 guys we had suited up is going to all play together."

Notes: Lulay said he will talk with the Lions' medical staff before deciding if he will undergo shoulder surgery. ... Veteran centre Angus Reid will have surgery on his injured back in the next few weeks. The 37-year-old didn't snap a single ball in 2013, but said he's open to continuing his career if he's able to recover in time for next season.

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