When: 10:00AM Pacific, Sunday November 15th, 2009
Where: Ivor Wynne Stadium, Hamilton, ON
TV: TSN, TSNHD
Radio: TEAM 1410 AM
The BC Lions were the Hamilton Tiger Cats biggest fans last Sunday, but seven days later they will be enemies in the CFL’s Eastern division semi-final playoff game in Hamilton. The Lions were on playoff life support after losing the final western spot to the Edmonton Eskimos in devastating fashion two days earlier, and the Tiger Cats gave them what they needed to play again by defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers convincingly in Winnipeg.
Hamilton will be hosting their first playoff game since 2001 and have been a rejuvenated franchise in 2009. Under the guidance of former Lions personnel guru Bob O’Billovich and head coach Marcel Bellefeuille, the Ticats captured second place in the CFL East with a 9-9 record, including two wins over the Lions.
Let’s take a look at some of the key issues for this game on both sides of the field, starting with the Lions.
BC will enter the game as underdogs, and under a little mystery as well. Just how healthy their quarterbacks are will likely be a closely guarded secret this week. The latest reports at the time of this preview were that Casey Printers was throwing the ball at the club’s practice facility on Sunday. But according to Printers, that didn’t take place and that he’s taking a wait and see attitude. Wally Buono is confident that Printers will start the game under centre. Travis Lulay is also reportedly ready to begin practicing this week, and should be available as the backup, along with Zac Champion. Buck Pierce may be available as the third option, but it would seem unlikely and a little to foolish to have a player dressed that won’t be able to be effective. Jarious Jackson will not be available.
If the Lions can get some consistency at QB in the game, the rest of the offense can be dangerous. Martell Mallett returned last week, and when he was used he was effective. Newcomers Dean Valli and Justin Sorensen need to step up along with the rest of the offensive line to produce an effective ground game, and keep the QB’s out of the first aid room and on the field.
The Lions are going to need a big game from their receivers as well, who were rendered ineffective last by the Eskimos and the QB situation. Geroy Simon and Paris Jackson both had 1000 yard seasons, and newcomer Emmanuel Arceneaux proved to be a valuable addition. Assuming there is someone to throw them the ball, they will all need a big game Sunday.
On special teams, Ryan Grice-Mullen had a strong game for the Lions last week, one of the few bright spots, and he’ll have to be sharp again. But the Lions will need to do a little better job and focus on not allowing the Ticats a short field by allowing big returns against from the likes of Marquay McDaniel.
The bigger concern by far is on defense, where the Lions were really struggled to stop the run all year, and that included 267 yards to the Ticats DeAndra’ Cobb in the two times they faced him this year. Coming off a disastrous game last week against the Eskimos, this is a serious area of worry heading into the playoffs. The Lions led the league in sacks with 42, and the front four will really need to try and pressure Kevin Glenn in addition to shutting down the run. The club needs much better production from linebackers Jojuan Armour, Javier Glatt and Anton McKenzie, who were clearly frustrated last week against the Eskimos to the point of shouting matches on the bench.
The defense appeared deflated and lifeless against the Eskimos, and their pride will have to be a motivating factor this week against Hamilton, who will be ready to play in front of an amped up Ivor Wynne crowd come game time.
Finally the Lions have to stop taking bad penalties. Procedure, offside, two many men, you name it the Lions are doing it. Discipline and focus have to be present for the Lions to have a shot at success.
Hamilton enters the game coming off of impressive wins over Saskatchewan and Winnipeg. Kevin Glenn, who took over the QB spot from Quinton Porter has provided leadership and experience guiding the Winnipeg attack, passing for over 3000 yards and 18 touchdowns. When Glenn is on he can play with anyone, but consistency has plagued him as well.
DeAndra’ Cobb had his coming out party against the Lions in the first few weeks of the season, He finished third in rushing with 1,294 yards and added over 500 yards receiving. In two games against the Lions, he rushed for 267 yards and two touchdowns, while adding another 102 in thru the air. Of course the Lions will also have to contend with the likes of Arland Bruce, Prechae Rodriguez, Dave Stala and Marqauy McDaniel.
The Cat’s offensive line was a huge part of their rebuilding process and is anchored by Dan Goodspeed and Alexandre. Still though they allowed 40 sacks as a unit, and the Lions will look to pressure Glenn as much as possible.
On defense, the Cats average of 24 points/game was second only to the Montreal Alouettes, and they will look to continue that stinginess led by three former BC Lions in Otis Floyd, Markeith Knowlton and Jamal Johnson. You know Floyd in particular would love to stick it to his former club after not being re-signed by the Lions in the offseason. Johnson wanted to return to BC after a failed NFL tryout, but couldn’t get the guarantee of playing time when the Lions were settled on a new defensive scheme using Javier Glatt and Anton McKenzie. Johnson only went on to lead the Ticats in tackles, setting a club record in the process with 109.
On special teams the Cats may enter the game with Jeremy Ito handling the kicking duties which would be just his second CFL game, his first coming last week in Winnipeg. Injured kicker Nick Setta’s status (Quadricep) is unknown.