Two weeks ago many had the BC Lions left for dead. I have to admit, that after the final regular season game against Edmonton, I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope, especially thinking we had lost Casey Printers. Strange things happen when you get a second chance, and like the Lions I feel invigorated as a fan and have great hope as the team prepares to take on the class of the CFL, the 15-3…haven’t lost at home…Montreal Alouettes.
There is no doubt the Lions will have to play their best game of the season to have a chance of advancing to the Grey Cup. Montreal’s stellar year was no fulke and they will be in front of a crowd in excess of 50,000 people at the Big O in Montreal. The Lions had two very good games against the Als this year, splitting the season series and losing the second on the last play of the game. The Alouettes have yet to face the “Casey Printers” version of the Lions.
Let’s take a look at the match up of Sunday’s Eastern Final and the Lions keys to success on Sunday.
Where: Olympic Stadium, Montreal QB
When: Sunday, November 22nd, 2009 10:00 AM
Where to watch: TSN, TSNHD
Where to listen: TEAM 1410 AM
Offense: The Casey Factor
Casey Printers didn’t play in either of the games against the Alouettes this year, in fact he wasn’t even on the team at that point. The Lions are clearly a different team with Printers in the lineup and he’ll pose a definite problem for the Montreal defense. Allow him to set up in the pocket and he has time to go deep. Allow him to escape the pocket and you can really get in trouble. Printers is no doubt a key in Sunday’s game, and he seems to be getting better with every start. His chemistry with Geroy Simon is impressive, and he’s also taking a liking to solid rookie receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux. Both of them had 100+ yard games versus Hamilton and they know if they get open down field, Printers can get it there. Failing that Paris Jackson is always a threat, and O’Neil Wilson has provided timely catches.
Printers showed great calmness in last weeks game versus the Ticats in a tough environment. He kept his cool during adversity, whether it was a bad penalty or in overtime after he had watched an 11 point 4th quarter lead slip away in the dying seconds. Right now he’s oozing with confidence, not only in himself but with the talent surrounding him and come Sunday if he’s on again, the Lions have a real shot at knocking off the Beast in the East.
Mallett hurt his shoulder in the Hamilton game and depite the fact he will play, it may be bad enough to keep the Western Division rookie of the year nominee from being anywhere near 100% come Sunday. The Lions will pray he can gut it out, because he was a force against the Als this year. In their first meeting of the year Mallett rushed for a club record 213 yards eclipsing the 212 yard total previously registered by former Lion Sean Millington. He was held to 66 in the second meeting, but the Lions will need a solid running attack to keep Montreal’s defenders honest against the pass. Ian Smart will no doubt work into the mix as well and was an effective tool last week, particularly on pitch outs and screen passes.
The Offensive Line
Somewhat lost in the satisfaction of last weeks win in Hamilton was the fact that a costly penalty could have cost the Lions a place in the Eastern Final. Late in the game with the Lions driving for the winning field goal a catch by Geroy Simon that would have given Paul McCallum a relatively easy field goal for the win was wiped out by a procedure call, the sixth of the game charged against the Lions offensive line. And it wasn’t just one player. Noise was blamed for the confusion, that and the fact the club is without the general of the line, Angus Reid. But if noise was a problem at Ivor Wynne, the Lions need to rectify this issue quickly if they are going to have success in front of a huge Olympic Stadium crowd.
The Lions will be happy that tackle Daren Heerspink will be able to go Sunday. It’s not known how healthy he is, but considering early reports had him questionable for the game, it’s good for the Lions he can play. The Lions had moved Justin Sorensen to tackle and inserted veteran Bobby Singh last week. But to have Sorensen start at tackle in a game of this magnitude would be a lot to throw on the rookie.
On defense, the Lions will look to have the same success against Avon Cobourne this week as they did against DeAndra’ Cobb last week. All week the Lions heard they couldn’t stop the run, however they may have changed some minds after their success last week. That said they is always Ben Cahoon, Jamal Richardson and Kerry Watkins to worry about.
The key to it all will be to get to QB Anthony Calvillo early and often. Get him off his game and out of the rhythm he’s famous for getting into. Calvillo’s release is accurate and quick, and if the Lions allow him enough time, it’s going to be a long day for Lions fans. Brent Johnson and Ricky Foley will be the keys to this success, and look for extra pressure from the blitzes of all-star Korey Banks.
The secondary had a strong game in Hamilton, but they have been giving up big chunks of yardage at critical times as well, mostly due to blown assignments. Barron Miles will look to lead the group and advance to the final, in what could be his final year. Look for the stamps to test Lavar Glover early.
Ian Smart doesn’t like the Alouettes. Cast aside by the Als, Smart would like nothing better than to be a factor in this game, not only at running back, but returning kicks. He’s joined in the return game by Ryan Grice-Mullen, who has had a few big returns of later, and looks to be getting comfortable as a CFL return threat.
On the other side of the ball, all hands will be required to stop the lethal Larry Taylor. Taylor is a threat every time he touches the ball, and when it looks like you have him he can make you look real dumb, real quick.
Both Paul McCallum and Damon Duval are capable kickers. The Lions will use the stronger leg of Sean Whyte for kickoffs and rely on the expertise and experience of McCallum for punting and field goal kicking. Field position will be huge, int he loud surroundings, and the Lions will need to be strong on special teams to ensure they have an upper hand in that department.
Wally Buono, the most successful coach in CFL history against the new blood, and highly thought of Marc Trestman. Both coaches will have their teams ready to play, but the big question as usually will be the adjustments made during the game. The Lions devised a wonderful game plan for the TiCats last week and will have to have an even better one for Montreal. The Als have the advantage of the bye, and possibly adding things the Lions haven’t seen, while the Als have film from last week that shows how the Lions were successful.
Does anyone else kind of sense this is turning into a story book ending for Casey Printers? Clearly the Lions are a different team with him at the controls. His ability to escape the rush, and as proven last week, stand in the pocket gives the offense so much more weapons. Case in point, the production of Geroy Simon since Printers’ return. The Lions are playing with nothing to lose against the beasts of the CFL this year, and have been a decent road team. Top that off with the fact they seem to be one of the few teams that consistently play the Alouettes tough and…
Lions 28, Alouettes 21 and the first all west Grey Cup in CFL history.