WINNIPEG — The BC Lions are looking to avenge a last-second loss to the East-leading Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but it won’t be an easy task against the best of the West in Week 10.
The Lions are still seeking their first win against a divisional opponent when they visit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at IG Field on Thursday Night Football. They’re coming off a 35-34 loss last week, in which the Ticats came back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
“They understand the task at hand,” Lions head coach DeVone Claybrooks said this week. “It’s time to play 60 minutes instead of 58, such and such.”
On the other side, the Bombers anticipate the Leos being out for revenge.
“We understand that they’re going to be coming in fired up,” Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols said. “So will we. We just have to match that intensity and play our best football.”
The Lions shuffled their D-line this week, re-acquiring defensive end Shawn Lemon from the Toronto Argonauts. The 30-year old had 10 sacks in 13 games with the Lions in 2018. Defensive tackle Davon Coleman went to Toronto in the trade.
“He knows our system and he can just slide right in and play and understand it’s just some new terminology, new calls and new wrinkles,” Claybrooks said. “He’s very familiar with us and he understands what I’m going to be cool with and what I’m not. We’ve got a great standard and a great relationship.”
The hope in BC is that Lemon can help the defence generate more pressure. Claybrooks’ unit has been middle of the pack in 2019, allowing 363.5 yards per game this season — but is tied for the worst in the league with just seven sacks.
While getting to Matt Nichols will be paramount, Bombers running back and current rushing leader Andrew Harris will be a handful. The former Lion is chasing history on Thursday, just 65 yards shy of becoming the all-time leader in yards from scrimmage by a Canadian. He sits behind former Montreal Alouette Ben Cahoon. Harris is also 60 rushing yards away from 10th all-time on the league’s rushing list.
“It’s the same thing when we talk about these milestones,” Harris said. “I mean, it’s a great accomplishment and I’ll appreciate it and enjoy it after. It’s one of those things you don’t really think about before the game, but just focusing on each play, each rep and just doing the best you can to be successful.
“It’s an accumulation of good coaching, good teammates and just hard work. It’s definitely something to be proud of, but I’m not trying to think about it right now.”
The Bombers will be without offensive lineman Pat Neufeld, who’s on the six-game injured list. They’ll line up Cody Speller at left guard, with Drew Desjarlais and Asotui Eli as backups along the offensive line. They’ll also be without fullback DJ Lalama, who was released this week when he didn’t accept a practice roster assignment.
“It happens,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said. “We wish he would have stayed, but I don’t think that’s it for football for him.”
The Lions will have quarterback Mike Reilly in the lineup, even after he was injured in the fourth quarter of the Hamilton loss. The Washington native was complimentary of the Bombers’ style of play, while acknowledging that his team must keep possession against them.
“The constant with them is they play good, complementary football. All three phases of their game feed off of each other” Reilly said. “They generally do a good job, over the last couple of years, of creating turnovers and giving their offence a short field to work with and that’s a benefit for their entire team. So as you look at it from my perspective, you have to protect the football and you have to maintain field position because they do have a very good special teams unit.”
The Lions also re-signed Canadian defensive lineman David Menard this week. Menard was originally drafted by the Lions in 2014.
BY THE NUMBERS
1-7 — The last time the Lions started a season at that record, it was 2010. The Lions rallied to a playoff berth despite finishing the season at 8-10.
1984 — Not just the title of George Orwell’s famous novel, but the year when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers started the year with a 4-0 record at home en route to a Grey Cup victory. They finished the season undefeated at home.
74% — The Lions converted 2nd downs at that rate last week against the Ticats.
2 — The Bombers haven’t allowed more than two sacks a game all season. They haven’t allowed more than one in their last three games.
– With files from BCLions.com and BlueBombers.com
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