Keys To The Game
If the BC Lions want a shot at a home playoff game in the West, beating Calgary this week could wind up being essential to that. The Lions (4-2) currently sit 3rd in the division behind Saskatchewan (6-1) and Calgary (6-1).
With a win, they’re tied for 2nd with Calgary and could even be tied for 1st (if Montreal pulls off a minor miracle and beats Saskatchewan).
But if they lose they’ll fall to 4-3 and will be in tough to finish ahead of either team.
It’s safe to say this is a major statement game. So here are 5 things to watch this week.
1. Play a Full 60 minutes
This team is notorious for struggling in the first half, finding their game in the third quarter, and hanging on in the fourth. BC has yet to put in a full 60 minute effort yet which will not cut it against Calgary this week. The Lions need to get momentum early and maintain it throughout.
Calgary will make you pay if you start slowly, as we saw in Week 1 when Calgary led BC 31-6 at halftime.
The best way to be consistent is to get the ball to your star players early. By establishing Andrew Harris early and getting the ball to top receivers Emmanuel Arceneaux and Nick Moore, you open the door for the more underrated players like Rolly Lumbala, Courtney Taylor, and Marco Iannuzzi. Plus, if the defense can make some stops early and the special teams unit steps up their game, the Lions will get that full four quarter effort that they’ve been working towards.
2. Establish The Run
I don’t think Andrew Harris gets utilized nearly enough in the running game, especially early in games. He is one of, if not the best playmakers the Lions have. He fights for every yard, refuses to be tackled, and has tremendous speed.
Plus, when you establish a solid running attack early, it allows you to use play action fakes and read options to confuse the defense and set up the passing game.
Dating back to last season, Harris has averaged under 12 rushing attempts per game. And while he does also get a lot of receptions as well, 12 rushes is simply not good enough. OC Jacques Chapdelaine needs to find a way to get him more touches this week, especially considering that Harris is going up against fellow Canadian superstar Jon Cornish.
3. Special Teams
Kicking: With the somewhat surprising release of Hugh O’Neill, and his magnificent beard, Paul McCallum is once again the undisputed kicker for the Lions, but I’m not so sure that is a good thing. We saw the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly from McCallum last game against Winnipeg.
He pinned the Bombers to the one yard line on consecutive punts, which was good.
He was only 1-3 on his field goals, both misses coming from 47 yards, which was bad. And he had a punt that somehow only went 2 yards, which was astonishingly ugly. Hopefully we see more of the good McCallum this week.
Returning: Easily the worst part of the Lions game this year. The Lions are averaging only 15.1 yards per kick return and an even worse 4.7 yards per punt return. At this rate, they might as well just let the ball hit the ground and get the no yards call.
Whether it’s blocking or poor decision-making by Tim Brown, something needs to change soon otherwise the Lions are going to have a tough time winning.
4. Defensive Line
Going into this season, if you told me the Lions would be last in the league in sacks in Week 8, I would have said you were crazy. Sadly, you’re not crazy.
The Lions go into this game with a mere 11 sacks on the season, which is just under 2 per game. Nowhere near good enough. The biggest reason for this seems to be moving Keron Williams, last year’s sack leader, to DT, which makes it a lot harder for him to get after the quarterback. Keron has managed just 1 sack thus far and his replacement Julius Williams has been injured to much to make an impact.
If the defensive line is going to be successful, Keron needs to move back to the outside as soon as possible.
It’ll free him up to get after Kevin Glenn and it’ll put the bigger linemen on the inside to stop Jon Cornish.
5. Keep The Crowd In The Game
Being a season ticket holder, I’ve noticed how low the attendance numbers have been this season and it is disappointing. But what I’ve also noticed is that even when it is just 20-25 000 fans, they can still make a lot of noise.
So my message to the Lions is: give them something to cheer about. Make big plays. Score big touchdowns. Get the crowd involved!
But a reminder to the fans: On defense make as much noise as you can to disrupt Kevin Glenn and the Stampeders’ offense. But when we’re offense, I want to be able to hear a pin drop inside BC Place so we can let Travis Lulay focus.