In most leagues, a 19-point fourth-quarter lead and a 10-point lead inside the final two minutes would seem like a pretty sure thing. But the Canadian Football League has long played up a #noleadissafe hashtag, and that came true again in CFL action Saturday night. There, the home B.C. Lions rallied to beat the Ottawa Redblacks 41-37 despite trailing 37-18 at the half and 37-27 with 1:49 left.
It’s what happened at that mark that was particularly crucial here, though. There, Ottawa tried a 50-yard field goal from Lewis Ward, and he missed. That led to B.C. receiver/returner Terry Williams taking it back 120 yards for a touchdown that put B.C. within three points (after the convert) with 1:27 to go:
— CFL (@CFL) September 17, 2023
A couple of only-in-Canadian-football rules were key to that result. First off, with only three downs, Ottawa had to kick, punt, or go for it here. They might have been smarter to punt and try and pin B.C. deep, as they were already up by two scores, but they instead went for the field goal.
The other part of this is that the Canadian game has the goalposts at the front of the end zone and that that end zone is 20 yards deep. Missed field goal returns are possible in American football too, as we’ve seen with plays like the Iron Bowl Kick Six, but they’re much more common in Canada thanks to those changes. (And a 120-yard return or longer is only possible under Canadian rules, thanks to 110-yard fields and 20-yard end zones.) So a long field goal becomes riskier still, as shown here. And Williams made some incredible moves on that return to take it all the way to the house.
After that return touchdown, the Lions still faced a difficult task. The Redblacks started on their 35 with 1:20 left after a 17-yard kickoff return, and up by three, they just needed to kill a little clock. But Devonte Williams lost four yards on a first-down carry, setting up second and 14, and Ottawa elected to go deep there to try and get a first down to kill the game.
Dustin Crum’s pass for Justin Hardy fell incomplete there, though. And that meant the Redblacks punted with 49 seconds left, and Williams returned it 24 yards to the Ottawa 54. The Lions only had 39 seconds to work with, though. But Vernon Adams Jr. hit Justin McInnis for 20 yards on first down, and McInnis went out of bounds stopping the clock.
B.C. then got 15 more free yards and a first down after the Redblacks’ Michael Wakefield committed a needless roughing the passer penalty. That set up a first down at the Ottawa 16 with 28 seconds left. After an incomplete pass for McInnis, Adams found Lucky Whitehead, who made a great catch for the go-ahead touchdown:
— CFL (@CFL) September 17, 2023
Ottawa had one more chance themselves after that, and got to the B.C. 38. But Crum was then sacked by Woody Baron, running out the clock and giving B.C. a 41-38 win. That improved the Lions to 9-4 on the year and dropped the Redblacks to 3-10. And it marked just the latest improbable collapse for this Ottawa team and one of the more memorable CFL comebacks in some time. (At least this collapse didn’t end a record losing streak, though.)
[CFL on Twitter]