Getting better, but still not perfect.
As good as the B.C. Lions defence has been the last three games it still has something to achieve.
“We haven't had our perfect game yet,” defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell said Saturday after the Lions dominated the Toronto Argonauts 28-6 in the final CFL game at Empire Field.
“A prefect game is when they have zero. We haven't got there yet.”
Mitchell led the assault on Toronto, collecting three of the Lions' four sacks on quarterback Steven Jyles, who was making his first start as an Argonaut.
Jyles had a couple of passes knocked down and also was forced to run for his life on several occasions.
B.C. forced Toronto to turn the ball over on downs twice, caused two fumbles and had an interception.
Linebacker Anton McKenzie said the Lions could have done more.
“We left a lot of things out on the field,” he said. “We can get way better.”
Slotback Geroy Simon hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Travis Lulay and Tim Brown scored on a one-yard run as the Lions improved their record to 4-6.
B.C. won the back-to-back series against Toronto by a combined score of 57-22.
The final score Saturday actually flattered the Argonauts. B.C. squandered away two potential touchdowns.
Simon fumbled on the one-yard line on the opening drive. Lulay threw an interception in the end zone after the Lions recovered a Jyles' fumble deep in Argonaut territory.
Several other drives stalled, resulting in Paul McCallum kicking four field goals.
Simon said not finishing drives could haunt the Lions as the season continues.
“If you want to be a great team, that's what you have to do, score touchdowns when you have the opportunity,” he said. “To beat those really good teams we are going to have to score touchdowns.”
Simon led all receivers with 117 yards on six catches. The touchdown was his 88th as a Lion, setting a franchise record, passing Willie Fleming.
“That means a lot,” said Simon, who is closing in on Milt Stegall as the CFL's all-time leading receiver.
“When you play for a long time and have success, those things are going to come. I give a lot of credit to my teammates, the coaching staff. We have worked together to achieve this.”
Lulay shredded the Toronto secondary, making long throws to Simon and Shawn Gore, then tossing short passes to Arland Bruce. In the third quarter Lulay took off on a 53-yard dash that set up a field goal.
The Lions running game also found its legs as Andrew Harris rambled for 56 yards on eight carries.
“You can feel the confidence of the team has come back,” said Lulay, who completed 19 of 29 passes for 263 yards and the touchdown.
Jyles was given the start after the Argos released Cleo Lemon earlier in the week.
For most of the first half Jyles looked exactly like he was, a quarterback returning to action after missing the first nine games of the season with a shoulder injury. He struggled to connect with his receivers and looked nervous in the pocket.
Jyles looked better in the second half. His passes became more accurate and he used his running skills to make first downs.
“He struggled with some things but I thought in the second half he played very well,” said coach Jim Barker.
“He made the plays we haven't seen in the two years since I've been here. Those are the kind of things we've got to have. Now we just put it all together and things will be much better.”
Jyles, who completed 18 of 33 passes for 220 yards, said he's still trying to find some chemistry with his receivers.
“At half time I told the guys to stick with me and things will turn around,” he said. “When you work with guys for one week it's tough to have the timing.”
Noel Prefontaine kicked field goals of 21 and 16 yards for the Argos, who dropped to 2-8.
A sellout crowd of 25,623 basked in the sunshine for the final football game at Empire Field. The Lions have used the temporary facility built on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds for the last 15 months while B.C. Place underwent $565 million in renovations.
Many of the players won't be sad to leave Empire Field, where the dressing rooms were temporary trailers and the Lions posted a 5-9 record.
“We didn't play well here at times,” admitted Simon. “To go out with a win, it feels good.
“Now it's time to get back to B.C. Place.”
The Lions have won four of their last five games. A big reason for that is a defence that hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown in three games.
The B.C. defence has given up just seven points in the fourth quarter of the last five games. During that stretch, the Lions have outscored their opposition 33-7.
The only touchdown the Lions allowed in their two games against Toronto was a 91-yard kick return by Chad Owens.
McKenzie said the defence won't be happy until they are perfect.
“Our thing is no scores, no touchdowns, no majors,” he said.
“We are perfectionists.”
Notes: There was a moment of silence before the game and the U.S. anthem was sang to remember the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. ...Three of the Lions losses this year have been by five points or less. ...The 2000 Lions started the season 3-6 but went on to win the Grey Cup. ...The Lions next two games are on the road, next Saturday in Edmonton then Sept. 24 in Saskatchewan.
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