Friday night the Lions are back in town for the second of three meetings this season. You may recall (unless you repress bad memories with whiskey as I have been known to do) that just 3 weeks ago were up 17-4 on the Lions is the first matchup only to allow 28 unanswered points and emphatically lose. The Riders will be looking for a different outcome. This is the first of 4 straight games against the top 2 teams in the league. Somehow emerging with 2 wins would be a big accomplishment. On our home turf is likely our best chance to steal a victory… and let’s be honest, we are going to need to steal one to emerge victorious.
Given that only one team has beaten the Lions (that being the Bombers), I went back and looked at that game to see what the blueprint is to beat them. Turns out there is no great secret… it’s the most basic things in football: limit the run game, force turnovers, run the ball (Bombers had 141 yards) and don’t commit turnovers. It also helps to return the opening kickoff of the game for a TD.
We start as always on defense, because how else do you think we are going to win? Some big, big news this week. Robertson is ready to go, Marino is off suspension and Leonard is making a surprise return. To say adding three DL of this calibre back is a difference maker is an understatement. Last game we got to Rourke early with 1 starter and a collection of rotation guys. BC has allowed just 9 sacks on the season but 2 of those came from our rag tag group. Now that our D-line is fully stocked with starters, we have a chance to make a real impact. It won’t be easy even with our starting D. This is the best offense in the CFL, led by a young hot shot QB who is fearless even when trailing. Slowing him down starts up front. If the D-line can dominate in the trenches it limits the run and makes life difficult for Rourke. By the 2nd half of last game, he had so much time in the pocket they could have cut to commercial break and been back in time for the pass. Our secondary is good but facing Rhymes, Burnham and Whitehead is tough at the best of times, let alone when the QB has all the time in the world. D needs to stand strong. They will also need to force some turnovers. If this turns into a shootout it would be equivalent of trying to beat an opponent who has an actual gun when all you have is one of the crappy dollar store water guns that breaks the first time you try and use it.
Offensively the big news is that our pleas have been answered and Na’ty Rogers is no longer being paid to take penalties and fail miserably at his job. While we are all happy about that, let’s not kid ourselves. Our line didn’t suddenly become good. We just replaced a guy who definitely sucks, with a guy who may not suck as much. He can’t be worse but until we seen any evidence to contrary, our line remains a massive liability.
If you want something that gives some faint hope I find this stat interesting: at home the BC defense averages 17 points allowed per game. On the road that number balloons to 29. Hell, we put up 17 and we aren’t that good and didn’t bother playing for the final 41 minutes of the game. The BC defense is good but beatable. The only way we are doing that is if Jamal Morrow touches the ball 20 times… and while I should not have to add this caveat, knowing our OC I do, that includes multiple touches in the second half of the game. In back to back games, Morrow has started strong and then we just abandoned him in the latter parts of the game. Morrow has run for 10+ yards on close to 20% of all his runs. So ask yourself, which is a more likely source of a first down? Giving the ball to Morrow? Or relying on the O-line to block long enough, Cody to make the right read and throwing an accurate pass that the receiver does not drop?
It will help that Cody is actually somewhat mobile in this game, as opposed to the first meeting where he displayed all the running ability of senior citizen. But I’m hoping he watched film of last game. As crappy as his line is, there were times where he could have stepped up in the pocket or gone a different direction and made life easier on his blockers. I don’t blame him for not trusting any of them but he needs to do what he can not to make things worse for this struggling unit. We will need Duke to turn in another stud game and we need to keep Schaefer-Baker involved (even if its just designed runs). Most importantly we need sustained drives in the 3rd quarter. That means no turnovers and at least a couple first downs. If we can’t help the defense out by scoring TDs then we could at least give them more than a 30 second breather before punting it away (talk about low expectations).
There was lots of talk going into the Calgary game about the return game being BC’s one glaring weakness. It almost cost them in that game. We just so happen to have a returner who has scored a TD in 26% of regular season games he played. If we are going to steal a victory hear we need a big play on special teams.
For me, here is the telling stat of our season: in 5 wins we are averaging over 10 points scored and only 4.6 points allowed in the 4th quarter. In 4 loses that flips and we are scoring 4.3 points and allowing 11. We need to finish. With all our studs back on defense, I think they are well positioned to put in a full 60 mins. As for the offense… if they can give us a smattering of effort split over 4 quarters, then we have a chance.
Could we win this game? Definitely. When we have all our starters (which we do) this is an elite defense capable of grinding out a win against any opponent. But possibility is not probability. Last week BC overcame a 17 point deficit on the road against a very good team. Last week we had a less than convincing win against a very bad team. Expect a more competitive game than many are expecting but in the end…
BC by a Rhymes TD.