CFL BC Lions vs Winnipeg
They no doubt feel a sense of accomplishment over the 3-0 start. But to a man, members of the BC Lions fully acknowledge the importance of this upcoming stretch; one that begins with a home clash against the 4-0 Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday afternoon and will also see them clash three times with Saskatchewan and twice with Calgary all before the end of August.
Simply put, we should learn a lot about this pesky group of Lions in the next six weeks. First things first: a big measuring stick against the two-time defending Grey Cup champions. Having earned a championship ring with the blue and gold in 2019, Marcus Sayles knows a thing or two about what makes them who they are and is prepared for what Zach Collaros and the offence will bring to the table.
“He’s a good quarterback who is able to read the field, able to go from his boundary to his field side easily, he can scramble a little bit and is able to make plays,” said Sayles.
“We have a good defensive line and we’re just going to try and contain him. As long as we play top-down and don’t give them any explosive plays, we’ll be successful.”
The Bombers are doing what they do best. Simply win football games. It hasn’t been pretty and they haven’t exactly lit up with Collaros and company on offence but everyone in orange understands what they are capable of doing with Collaros, a banged-up but still strong offensive line and a host of playmakers that still includes Drew Wolitarsky and rookie Dalton Shoen.
“They’ve got some guys down right now so the dynamic of their team might be different, but that really doesn’t matter,” added Sayles.
“As long as we do what we’ve got to do, we’ll be fine.”
On the other side of the ball, a big reason Nathan Rourke and company have been able to score points and chew up yards at will has been the play of the offensive line. This week presents easily their toughest test of the season so far against a unit consisting of Willie Jefferson, Jackson Jeffcoat and Adam Bighill.
“(Jackson and Jefferson) are two elite rushers in this league and we take pride in our work,” explained guard Sukh Chungh.
“Come Saturday, we have some big one-on-ones to win and have to play as a unit. Blocking those guys is just a part of it.”
Rourke has been consistently using all of his weapons as the offence is averaging over 500 yards of total yards per game. Look no further than the 44-3 pasting of Toronto in week three where he hit no less than seven targets in the first quarter alone. That balance will remain a major key in their effort to stay unbeaten.
“It’s a chance to set a tone and go against a really good opponent that takes pride in being the defending champs,” explained the former Bomber Chungh.
“It’s a big Saturday here. We can’t wait for it.”
BC Lions (3-0-0) vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (4-0-0)
Saturday, July 9
4:00 pm, BC Place
TV: TSN, ESPNews
Radio: AM730, Lions Audio Network, Sirius XM 167 Canada Talks
Season Series: The teams will meet twice more in 2022: October 15 at BC Place and then in the regular season finale October 28 in Winnipeg
3 Lions To Watch
#7 WR- Lucky Whitehead- with the spotlight shining on Dominque Rhymes and Keon Hatcher the last two games, you get the sense Lucky is ready to break out in a big way. He was largely ineffective against his old team last year, suffering a broken hand in their opening matchup before being used as just a decoy in the second half.
#65 OL- Sukh Chungh- yes, the offensive line deserves some eyeballs. Another former Blue Bomber, Chungh’s improvement has been a major positive early on. He made one outstanding block while pulling on a big completion to James Butler out of the backfield.
#34 DL- Tim Bonner– the third Lion in as many games to record multiple sacks last week, Bonner has been a steady force in the rotation that has played a role in limiting yards allowed for this rejuvenated defensive unit.
Having had a long week to recover from any ailments, the Lions will go with the exact same lineup from last week in Ottawa
Another beauty nugget courtesy Lions historian Steve Daniel: With Rourke at the helm, the Lions offence has scored touchdowns on 16 of 39 offensive drives; an unreal rate of 41 per cent compared to the CFL-wide rate of 14 per cent (64/443).
Keon Hatcher, the reigning CFL Top Performer of the Week, entered week five as the CFL’s leader with 96.3 yards per game. He notched a career-high 166 yards in Ottawa last week.
Red Zone production is the key. This elite Bombers defence has allowed just two opposition touchdowns in eight red zone situations this season.
The Bombers keep piling up wins despite their offence not yet scoring 20 points in any game this season. The two games they went over 20 were aided by interception returns: Willie Jefferson in the 26-12 win over Hamilton and Winston Rose to open the scoring in Toronto on Monday.
Dating back to the 2019 regular season opener, the Lions have dropped four straight meetings to Winnipeg. The last victory came in week five of the 2018 campaign when Travis Lulay helped the home side escape a ten-point deficit in the final two minutes to prevail 20-17.