07/31/2013 12:11 EDT | Updated 09/29/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. Lions lament lost opportunities in 38-12 loss to Toronto Argonauts

TORONTO - Down in the B.C. Lions' cramped dressing room, GM Wally Buono pored over the final stats like a medical patient reviewing X-rays.

After a 38-12 loss to the Toronto Argonauts at the Rogers Centre, it wasn't a pretty picture.

The Lions, who came into Tuesday night's game as the least penalized team in the CFL with 250 yards in four games, were flagged 13 times for 126 yards.

"You have to understand where the borders are and sometimes you go over the line," B.C. coach Mike Benevides said after his team played four quarters of flag football. "And certainly we've been extremely good at that part of football. And we weren't tonight and we hurt ourselves.

"When you play a good football team and you make it harder on yourselves with penalties and turnovers and that type of thing, you can't win football things."

One second-quarter B.C. drive expired on the back of three straight penalties: two illegal procedures and a time-count violation that resulted in a loss of down. And the first half ended on another failed B.C. march that featured three unnecessary roughness penalties to the Lions on the same play after a melee between the two teams (the Argos got one unnecessary roughness penalty).

The ineffectiveness of B.C.'s offence was measured by the fact that all its points came from Paul McCallum's boot and none of his four kicks was longer than 17 yards.

The last Lions' two field goals, both of which came in the second half, came at the end of drives that covered a combined 22 plays, 144 yards and 10 minutes 31 seconds.

"They made the plays that we didn't when it got to those critical zones on the field," B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay said of the Argos.

Slow starts have also cost B.C., which has managed just 10 points in the first quarter over five games.

The first field goal came on B.C.'s second drive of the game. After taking over the ball on the Argonaut 42-yards line, the Lions made it as far as the three-yard line where they were stopped twice by a fired-up home defence.

"Long story short," said Benevides. "When you don't make plays, when you turn the ball over and you don't score in the red zone ... there's no way you can win that."

The Lions (3-2) lost two fumbles and gave up an interception to Toronto.

B.C. kept chipping away but it was an uphill battle. In the third quarter, a McCallum field goal narrowed the lead to 14-9 on a 12-play drive that saw the team gamble three times on third down.

But for every step forward, there were two back. After Toronto scored to increase its lead to 21-9, Lulay drove the Lions down the field in part due to a 40-yard strike to Nick Moore. But, with the ball at the Toronto nine, open running back Andrew Harris dropped a pass and B.C. had to settle for yet another field goal.

The Lions gave up five TDs in the season-opening 44-32 loss to Calgary but only three combined in their next three wins.

On Tuesday night, it was another loss and five more TDs. The Lions defence found itself in deep water as its offence failed to produce points.

"You can't take anything from Collaros. He made things happen," linebacker Adam Bighill said of debutante Toronto quarterback Zach Collaros, who was making his first CFL start. "It's hard to all of a sudden come after a quarterback and be aggressive on him when they're ahead in the football game and they're not forced to do certain things, where they can dictate kind of what they want to do. So you can't really pin your ears back and try to make big-time plays.

"Our coaches called a good game," he added. "Defensively we called the right play. We just couldn't execute properly."

Bighill was left lamenting a string of near misses when it came to hunting down the elusive Collaros.

"It's not that the play couldn't be made," said Bighill, who came into the game nursing a sore ankle. "I left a few plays out there. Those are plays I can make. No problem."

A lot of Lions will be thinking the same thing when they look in the mirror in the morning.