BY MATT BAKER
All season long he was clamouring for more touches on offence. And when the chance finally arrived, Chris Rainey did not disappoint.
Rainey had 195 yards from scrimmage and two touchdown catches as your BC Lions (7-10-0) defeated the Blue Bombers (11-6-0) 36-27 on Saturday afternoon. Jonathon Jennings had his best outing of the season, passing for 408 yards and four majors.
It was an offensive explosion many fans have been waiting for and although there will be no playoffs in 2017, Rainey and company insists the result is still meaningful.
“It felt like a playoff game to us too,” said the University of Florida product.
“We don’t care about them. We’re trying to win and finish out the season strong.”
Rainey’s second touchdown was a highlight reel, 40-yard grab that gave the visitors an eight-point lead with 9:05 to play.
“Keep your eyes on the ball at all times,” reminded Rainey.
“Every day in practice the goal is to be better than every receiver out there. When the ball is in the air, I am coming down with it.”
“Rainey is a special cat,” added Jennings.
“He’s a guy that is one of the most tremendous football players I have ever played with, he really has a knack and love for the game, he loves it more than a lot of guys and he just wants that opportunity. You saw what he could do anytime he touches the ball.”
It was the third-highest passing total of Jennings’ young career and you got the sense he really has his confidence back as this season comes to a close. He also benefited from solid protection up front.
“We just had a really good plan and stuck do it. And then when we had those opportunities down the field, we made them. O-Line did a hell of a job and then our receivers and running backs just made some crazy good plays.”
They opened the game with an eight-play, 73- yard drive that ended with a touchdown grab to Nick Moore.
Rainey’s first score came on a third and two from the Winnipeg five: that one made it 14-6 after the opening quarter. Bryan Burnham also had a touchdown grab for the victorious visitors.
The hometown Blue Bombers lost starting quarterback Matt Nichols in the first quarter with an apparent leg injury. Dominique Davis and Dan Lefevour both took snaps. Andrew Harris was knocked out of the game in the 4th quarter after a big hit from Dyshawn Davis. The playoff bound Bombers are already without receiver Darvin Adams and defensive back Maurice Leggett for the rest of the season. Losing another key starter like Harris could spell trouble. The former Lion was being evaluated after the game.
TJ Lee had two interceptions for a defence that had not committed a turnover in the previous five games.
David Menard, Alex Bazzie and rookie Junior Luke each chipped in with a quarterback sack.
The only Winnipeg touchdown came on a blocked punt return by Michael Miller in the second quarter.
The Lions close out their 64th regular season on Saturday, November 4th when the Toronto Argonauts visit BC Place.
75– the completion percentage for Jennings. He finished 30 for 40.
248– Jennings’ passing yards after the first half.
152- game-high receiving yards for Burnham. The Blue Bombers killer was at it again.
34– punt return yards on five opportunities for newcomer Tyler Davis in his pro debut.
The offensive line play was extra impressive when you consider three new starters were inserted: newcomer Keavon Milton faired well at right tackle. Charles Vaillancourt replaced Kirby Fabien at guard, while David Foucault did his part on the left side.
Hat tip to Davis. The former Syracuse linebacker has worked his tail off for the last two seasons and shown signs of potential in his limited game action. The hit on Harris was a pure football play and it no doubt scored points with his teammates on a jacked up sideline.
Might this be the type of result that gives Jennings some confidence going into a very important offseason? The quarterback has shown signs of his 2016 form lately. That could be huge for this organization as it begins the autopsy on this season and begins to formulate a plan for bouncing back in 2018.
Kudos to Burnham and Manny Arceneaux for both hitting the 1000-yard receiving mark on the game’s opening drive. Both have been nicked up at times this season and their compete level has always remained second to none.
Matt Baker: [email protected]