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August 4, 2016

Lions wrap up three-game road swing in Montreal

Montreal Alouettes Kyries Hebert grabs ball carrier B.C. Lions Chris Rainey during 3rd quarter CFL action in Montreal on Thursday September 3, 2015 (CFL PHOTO - Peter McCabe)

Montreal, Quebec– The BC Lions (3-2) have turned the page following last week’s heartbreaking overtime loss in Calgary and now get set to tackle the Montreal Alouettes (2-3) Thursday night at Percival Molson Stadium. When the practice week began, you would not have known they let one slip against the Stampeders, as the mood was upbeat and jovial with the opportunity to re-claim top spot in the West on the horizon. Simply put: they cannot afford to dwell on the 44-41 loss, especially on a short week against an opponent that allowed only three points last week. “Montreal has been a good defensive team the last couple years, ” said GM and head coach Wally Buono. One word that has been frequent in their preparation for the Alouettes: finish. “60 minutes and overtime,” Buono said with a chuckle. “It’s part of the learning process, but in the grand scheme of things this is how you learn. Sometimes in sports you have to learn the ugly way and whether it’s a critical mistake or mistakes that cost you games, that’s part of the learning curve. I’m okay with short weeks. This one here you get the memory of the last game out of your way.”

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Here are some other things to watch for Thursday night:

 Jennings Looks To Make Amends

 On the surface, Jonathon Jennings was brilliant last week: 374 yards passing and three touchdowns to go along with 44 rushing yards on just five carries. But what the critics will point to is the costly fourth quarter interception, which led to the game-tying points, and the one in the end zone to seal the Lions’ fate. Seeing how Jennings responded to his first loss of the year by throwing for a career-high 429 yards in a 40-27 win at Saskatchewan, we expect him to deliver once again in Montreal. Finishing is the word he is most focussing on. “We just have to make sure we put it all together for 60 minutes and continue to climb that ladder,” Jennings said. You also can’t completely ignore the positives after a game in which your offence put up a season-high 41 points. “We did a good job on offence. You can’t take that away from us. Along with getting better, you’re going to make mistakes that are going to, in turn, make you better so I think a big thing for me is continuing to learn and not making the same mistake twice.”

Containing The Als’ Attack

 The hometown Alouettes are riding high following their 41-3 thrashing of Saskatchewan last week. Duron Carter, probably the top target for Kevin Glenn and the offence, caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. The Lions’ secondary will no doubt have its’ hands full. after Brandon Stewart and Mike Edem suffered injuries in Calgary that will keep them out of this tilt. “That’s why our personnel department gets paid the way they do,” so they can bring in the proper guys to keep us at a high level and make sure we can still stay afloat and try to get a win in a hostile environment,” said 12-year veteran Ryan Phillips. Rookies Anthony Thompson and Anthony Gaitor are expected to get some additional playing time, along with Eric Fraser and Keynan Parker who filled in quite nicely in Calgary.

Full strength or not, Phillips knows the confident Alouettes will provide no sympathy. “They have a veteran quarterback in Kevin who has been around longer than me and great personnel. Carter is one of the elite receivers in this league; a guy that makes big plays. That’s something we have to eliminate and minimize. We have to make sure we have an aggressive, attack-style defence.”

Johnson returns to tailback

Buono has elected to tinker with his backfield by re-inserting Jeremiah Johnson as the featured running back in place of Anthony Allen. Expect Johnson to have a bounce in his step as he gets his first taste of action since suffering an ankle injury in week two at Hamilton, a game where the Lions prevailed 28-3. “It feels awesome man, getting back inside that huddle with my guys,” Johnson said. “I thought I was doing pretty well ( before the injury) and I just want to get back to that. Right now we have been doing everything well but have to hone in on our ability to hold games. Once that happens, we’ll be quite alright.” Johnson has averaged 5.6 yards per carry in his two Lions appearances.

Bake’s Take: The X Factor

It wouldn’t be surprising if Chris Rainey was still running following the dazzling 95-yard punt return touchdown to open the scoring in Calgary. The “Rain Man” gives the Lions one of the biggest playmakers in the CFL and he has the ability to change a game at any moment; just ask the Stamps in week one. Perhaps most important is the fact he is fun to watch, one of those players you would pay to come and see. And for a kick returner, that’s saying something. Look for him to try and make another statement this week against the team who cut him loose in June of last year.

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Extra Yardage

Another milestone for Ryan Phillips as the ageless safety suits up for career game number 200. He is the sixth in franchise history to accomplish the feat and it certainly has been an outstanding ride for RP since first arriving in the den eleven years ago. How close might he get to Lui Passaglia’s record of 408 games in orange? We won’t put it past him to get as close as possible. At the tender age of 34, he looks like he could play another decade.  These clubs split their two meetings last year with the road team winning each time…The Lions prevailed 25-16 at Molson Stadium and dropped a 23-13-decision at home two weeks prior.. The Leos will sport their ‘home’ look of orange uniforms and black helmets on Thursday. The Alouettes have elected to go with their all-white look. This game can be heard on TSN 1040 with Scott Rintoul and Giulio Caravatta. Pre-game coverage begins at 2:00 PM with Barry Macdonald, Don Taylor and Bob Marjanovich live from Percival Molson Stadium. It can be watched on TSN 1, and for viewers south of the border, ESPN 2.

You can download Thursday’s roster and depth chart here

Fan Poll
Which area is most crucial for a win in Montreal?
Contain Kevin Glenn
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Slow down the running game
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Solid Special teams
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Exploit Alouettes secondary
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matt baker: mbaker@bclions.com