VANCOUVER -- One more inch. One more flip of the football. One more turn on the laces. Sean Fleming was asked to kick a 51-yard field goal in overtime here last night. And that's exactly what he kicked it. It hit the crossbar.
One more inch, one more flip of the football, one more turn on the laces and it would be a significantly different football season for the Edmonton Eskimos heading home.
IT DIDN'T WORK THAT WAY
But it didn't work that way.
After finishing first and making it to the Grey Cup game both of the last two seasons, the Eskimos aren't going to end up on top of the Western Conference and playing host to the Grey Cup game.
"I'll concede them first, but I won't concede them the Grey Cup,'' said CEO Hugh Campbell, who spent the entire game on the sidelines.
To win a team record eighth straight game, the Lions had to come from behind in this one to keep their record run going.
The Lions, who started their streak a week after losing 25-9 to the Eskimos here on July 9, ended up winning it 36-33 in overtime.
What do you say when you lose this way?
"It was one of those classic CFL games - the CFL at it's finest,'' said head coach Tom Higgins.
"It was two very evenly-matched teams. Football is a game of inches. The difference in that one was definitely inches.''
Higgins said he couldn't knock his team or his kicker.
"I told the team I was proud of them and that was a great kick by Sean,'' he said.
"It was dead-on. I could see that the flight of the football was end-over-end and because of that, I was worried it might not have a chance to carry.''
One less flip and it might have made it.
"He couldn't have kicked it better,'' said the head coach. "Another inch higher.''
Fleming said missing it is one thing. Having something like that happen to a kick that was about as good as they get, is another.
"It's tough to take, obviously.
That's a long one to kick, particularly in the stale air of an indoor stadium.
"The aim was good. Jason Maas wasn't able to spin the laces straight on, but that happens.
"I thought penalties hurt us a bit, especially personal fouls - the ones you can control. Players can't be selfish in big games.''
But the big hurt is the standings.
"It's tough with five games left,'' said Fleming.
The Eskimos can now forget about first place. The Lions are now four points up with a game in hand and with this one won the season series and would get the nod for first place in the event the two teams finished tied.
The Lions have six games to go including a home-and-home series against the sorry Stampeders, home games with Winnipeg and Saskatchewan and away games in Toronto and Montreal.
The Eskimos have home games to go with Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg and away games in Hamilton and Regina. Their focus now switches from first place to trying to salvage at least home-field advantage for the western semifinal.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, earlier in the day, filed notice that they're planning on being there in the playoffs, coming from behind 20-3 to beat the Toronto Argos 44-34.
It was the Bombers third straight win.
"We'll probably have to win three of our last five,'' suggests Campbell.
"We'll have to face a fired up team to win our way back here. If we get back here we'll have another whale of a football game.
"But we know we can play well here. I thought we handled that noisy crowd very well. We played 'em to a crossbar draw.
"And that's about as unlucky as I've seen us being in many years.
'A ZILLION THINGS'
"When you have a close game this close, a zillion things can make the difference.
"We had a lot of trouble bringing their quarterback down,'' he said of Casey Printers.
"He's a strong guy. We were able to confuse him but we couldn't get him down on the ground.''
Higgins is big on splitting the seasons into third. Maybe, after this, he should stop.
The Eskimos lost the first three games of the first third, the first two games of the second third and the first game of the final third.