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October 4, 2019

Game Preview | Lions vs. Argonauts

Lions running back John White breaks tackles at Toronto's BMO Field on July 6th/2019. Photo: David Dermer

The Matchup: Regular Season Game 15

BC Lions (4-10-0) vs. Toronto Argonauts (2-11-0)

Saturday, October 5th

7:00 PM PT

Lions last result: a 25-23 home win over Montreal on September 28th.

Argonauts last result: a 41-16 home loss to Saskatchewan on September 28th.

Recent history: The Lions squeaked out an 18-17 win at Toronto’s BMO Field back on July 6th. It was their first victory of 2019.

Playoff picture: The Lions are still alive for a crossover berth after Edmonton fell 42-12 in Hamilton on Friday night. They must beat the Argonauts to stay mathematically in the hunt and set up a big showdown against the Eskimos next week in the Alberta capital. The Argonauts would be eliminated with a loss or if Montreal defeats Calgary on Saturday afternoon.

Vegas odds: The Lions are listed as 9.5 point- favourites with the over/under set at 50.5.

3 Things 

Take ‘Em Out Of It Early

Starting fast is always an important key to winning games. Look no further than these 2019 Toronto Argonauts who have scored a CFL-low 42 first quarter points all season. When you do the math, that’s an average of 3.2 per game. The next-lowest total of first quarter points is 56, shared by Edmonton and Ottawa.

Falling behind early has clearly been a major factor in the Argos’ 2-11 record and although Aaron Grymes wants to help that trend continue this week, he and the defence knows they can’t just expect it to happen. The focus, as always, remains on what they need to do.

“We didn’t talk about it too much because, as you said, we’ve got the same motto,” said Grymes.

We’re trying to come out and make a statement early, continue to put the ball in Mike’s hands because we know what can happen the more chances they (the offence) gets. For us, it’s easy to sit here and talk about another team struggling; I mean we’re 4-10 as well, right? We’re continuing to correct ourselves and we’re trying to get this win on Saturday.”

On the flip side, the Lions have only led after the opening 15 minutes in five of their 14 games and scored a total of 68 points in first quarters.

“Our motto is every week you just want to win out,” added Grymes.

“If we’re going to have a chance of prolonging the season, we have to win out. We can’t control what everybody else does. As long as we take care of what we can control, then we can sleep well at night.”

And they will stick with that motto as long as the playoff dream is a reality.

Fan Poll
What is the biggest key to a victory over Toronto on Saturday?
Protecting Mike Reilly
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Stopping The run
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A Fast Start
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The Game Isn’t Played On Paper

The 2019 Lions can attest to that. Talent doesn’t automatically equate to success in the box scores. As they prepare to face an Argonauts squad that has had the same fortunes this season, they will note that their opponent still has plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Quarterback James Franklin will rely on playmakers such as James Wilder Jr. out of the backfield and receivers Derel Walker, S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards just to name a few. They expect a battle.

“You have to stop the run and they have weapons. You have to play them static and hopefully, you can out-execute them,” said head coach DeVone Claybrooks.

“It doesn’t matter who their quarterback is. With the weapons have, you just have to get them the ball. And then with (Chris) Rainey returning, the BC fans are very familiar with him. He can catch it and he’s a jitterbug too. You have to do the little things. We understand that team and we’re familiar with (offensive coordinator) Jacques (Chapedelaine) and Chambs (head coach Corey Chamblin) and what they like to do. It’s the CFL. You don’t take any team for granted because their records don’t really matter. It will be a fun and exciting test for us.”

Walker leads the squad with 995 receiving yards while the always-dangerous Green is just 95 yards away from 10,000 for his career. The Lions allowed 248 rushing yards against Montreal last week so they know they must keep Wilder Jr. in check.

Veteran Cleyon Laing leads the defensive front, while ex-Lion Micah Awe patrols the middle of the field at linebacker. It’s a test in all facets.

Consistency Is Key For…..

A resurgent Lions offensive line that has played a big role in the numbers put up by Mike Reilly, John White and the receiving core during this three-game winning streak. Don’t believe us? Consider this stat: after allowing 43 sacks in the first ten games of the season, Reilly has been taken down just five times in the last four contests. Offensive line coach Kelly Bates who took over at the start of September credits having the same starting five going on six games in a row.

“Anytime you can do something more together, you will get better and I think every offensive line coach and every football coach wants that to occur within your system,” said Bates.

“That being said, you’re always working to the ability to have the next guy ready to go when you need him, but I think we’ve been very fortunate to have that same group together for awhile now.”

Practising alongside each other and spending time in the film room every day no doubt breeds that comradery and the motivation to continue pushing each other. Bates sees that and more with his players.

“I think they’re a great group of guys,” added Bates.

“They want to be there for each other and that matters. I think they’re attention to detail when directed and the way it’s been directed is something that they’ve taken to and enjoyed. Ultimately, they’re critical of themselves and they want to get better.

BC Lions offensive line coach Kelly Bates during the CFL game between the Ottawa RedBlacks and the BC Lions at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, BC, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (Photo: Johany Jutras / CFL)

QB Comparison

Mike Reilly

2019 W/L record: 4-10-0. Statistics: 300/433 for 3,615 yards, 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

  • Reilly certainly deserves a ‘Lion’s’ share of the credit for this three-game winning streak. In those victories, he has thrown for 948 yards, five touchdowns and completed a remarkable 78.9 per cent of his passes (71/90). He will now look to improve on his career record of 4-6-0 against the Boatmen.

James Franklin

2019 W/L record: 0-3-0. Statistics: 69/101 for 790 yards, three touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

  • It’s been a roller coaster of a second season in the Big Smoke for Franklin. After going down with an injury in a week three loss at Saskatchewan, Franklin took over for McLeod Bethel-Thompson two weeks again against Calgary and was given the start in Toronto’s loss to the Roughriders last week. He will no doubt use these last five weeks as motivation to prove he is the guy going forward. This will be Franklin’s first career start against the Lions.

Extra Yardage

Looking down the road: Following this one and the trip to Edmonton, the Lions will host Saskatchewan on October 18th, then following a bye week will welcome in Calgary in the regular season finale on November 2nd. The Eskimos will have a bye after next week’s clash before finishing the season with a home and home series against Saskatchewan.

Number crunching: Reilly is 385 passing yards away from hitting 4,000 for the fifth time in his career. At 500 receiving yards for the season, Shaq Johnson needs just 22 more to establish a new career-high. He is also 143 shy of 1,500 for his career. White needs 170 rushing yards to surpass his career-high of 886 in one season.

And finally: we misinformed you last week when we said Burnham was 16 catches away from Jim Young for third on the club’s all-time list. At 348 receptions, Burnham needs 204 more to match Young’s career total of 552. Hey, we still won’t count him out before all is said and done.

This marks the sixth and final game in a stretch where the Lions have faced all Eastern Division squads. A victory would make them 4-2 in that stretch.

The Lions have not won four straight games since July of 2017 when they rattled four off after dropping their season opener that year. They had a pair of three-game winning streaks in 2018.

A couple of roster changes this week: slotback Jevon Cottoy (hamstring) will miss this one. Rashaun Simonise will play a starting role in the offence, while defensive back Josh Woodman returns to the lineup as a backup to Chris Edwards at SAM linebacker. French receiver Benjamin Plu will dress in the global spot in place of Fernando Richarte.

TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 5:00 PM. Bob Marjanovich and Giulio Caravatta have the call at 7:00 PM. Viewers can watch on TSN 1, while Lions fans south of the border can stream it on ESPN+. Fans across the pond in the UK and Ireland can watch on BT Sport.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com