There is some good news for the B.C. Lions, despite a heartbreaking 38-36 loss to Hamilton last weekend.
Their offence is doing just fine.
Quarterback Casey Printers, entering the game for the second half after starter Dickenson left with ever-present knee difficulties took the fight to the Ti-Cats and electrified the 20,952 fans in attendance by completing 23 of 33 and tallying 368 yards. With Frank Cutolo landing two touchdowns, and newly re-signed Geroy Simon clawing for distance all night, the Lion?s offensive prowess appeared alive and well.
The same, however, cannot be said for their defense.
With rookies Dante Marsh and Sam Young playing the corners, and a lighter-than-average defensive line minding the middle, McManus and the Cats tore up the fragile B.C. defensive core, punctuating their dominance by completing 20 of 33 passes for 476 yards. Cornerback Marsh summed up the defensive effort when he said, ?there’s no excuses. There’s nothing to explain. The effort was there but the execution wasn’t. I’m not going to make up some type of story. I didn’t get it done.?
The Lions better find the execution they need–and fast–if they?re to stand any chance of tallying a win this Saturday when they face an Edmonton Eskimos team eager to erase memories of their own failing performance in this season?s opener.
The returning Grey Cup champions had a generous serving of humility handed to them in the form of a 33-9, one-sided Grey Cup rematch last weekend in front of 20,202 frenzied fans in Montreal. The constant barrage of punishing blitz plays kept the Eskimo?s to only 27 rushing yards, an abysmal performance for a team that dominated the turf last season. Former Alouette?s star running back Mike Pringle looked like a subdued shell of his former self, gaining a paltry six yards on five carries as aggressive defensive linemen and linebackers seemed to zero in on him all night.
However, it wasn?t all bad news for the Eskimos, as quarterback Jason Maas, still dealing with his own injury issues, shook free from the rust he had accumulated from inactivity last season. He completed 19 of 38 passes for 165 yards, and showed that he still had wheels when needed, with sporadic scrambles throwing the Montreal defense for a loop. While doubts still remain as to whether Edmonton has the resources necessary to field a solid starting quarterback, Maas appears to be capable of regaining his lost form–as long as his health holds up.
With a solid offensive core already in place, success for the Lions will depend on whatever composure and maturity Marsh and Young can regain. Edmonton?s stifled passing game against the Alouettes should be taken with a grain of salt, as Maas is quite capable of connecting with outlets on the corners for quick yards. Wally Buono, head coach of the Lions, acknowledged this, as well as the challenges his young corners experienced in their last outing. ?[The Tiger Cats] did a good job of going after them. At times there was good coverage but the [Hamilton] receivers made good plays.? Their ability to rebound from a poor first performance will be key to the Lion?s success.
Edmonton will have an extra boost on defense this Saturday, as Kelvin Kinney joined the Eskimo?s defensive line–a move which helps to plug one of the holes made frighteningly apparent against Montreal. The 6?7, 265 pound tackle will provide a great deal of pressure on the B.C. offensive line for Edmonton, and should help to interrupt the aggressive Lions running game. However, in order to walk away with the win, Edmonton?s offense will have to show up and produce, something that they failed to do enough of in their last outing.