The BC Lions spent the week licking their wounds after reality bared its fangs and took a big bite.
The Lions' confidence was inflated after wins over Saskatchewan and Montreal, but that balloon was popped by a 23-6 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at BC Place Stadium last week. Like Cameron Diaz washed of her makeup, the Lions got a good look at themselves and it wasn't pretty.
A Lions’ offence that scored 67 points in its previous two games couldn’t manage a touchdown against the Bombers. Adding to the humiliation, the loss came on the same night the CFL's all-time receiving leader Geroy Simon was inducted into the Lions’ Ring of Honour.
"What happened was we went into (Regina) and we won, then we whooped Montreal and I think we got to thinking we were pretty hot stuff," right guard Dean Valli said about BC dropping to 2-3.
“It’s a humiliating experience. It will remind us you have to bring that maximum intensity and flawless execution every week or it's not going to get done. It's a bit of a kick in the ass saying you guys better come to play every week."
Things won't get any easier this week when B.C. plays the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium. Not only are the Stampeders unbeaten with four wins, they have the league's best run defence and are second against the pass.
The list of things the Lions need to cleanup against Calgary reads like a bad arrest record.
BC has allowed a whooping 21 sacks so far this year. That can partly be attributed to an under-construction offensive line that has seen three different left tackles used in four games.
Kevin Glenn, the quarterback the Lions were excited to get in a trade when they realized Travis Lulay hadn’t recovered from off-season shoulder surgery, has thrown eight interceptions and just five touchdowns. He tossed seven interceptions all last season.
Glenn has been forced to run for his life behind an offensive line that has trouble stopping its own water some nights. At times the quarterback and receivers, both adapting to Khari Jones’ new offensive scheme, haven't been on the same page.
Glenn also has been guilty of throwing into double coverage and not seeing open men. He hasn’t helped the sack total by hanging onto the ball too long.
Fumbles have also cost the Lions. BC has coughed up the ball four times this year.
"It's the same old thing," said head coach Mike Benevides. "You turn the ball over, you can't win the game.
“The game isn't that complicated. You have to execute, you have to make plays. You have to maintain the football. We have to be a lot better."
Penalties, many of them undisciplined, dead-ball fouls, have cost the Lions field position and resulted in drives starting in a hole. Against Winnipeg, BC was called 14 times for 122 yards. The Lions are third-worst in the league with 58 penalties costing them 482 yards.
Benevides said players have to decide which is more important, settling individual scores after the whistle or winning football games.
"Unless it matters to them it doesn't change," he said. "Sometimes an aggressive penalty or and offside, those things are going to occur."
"But when you get that many (penalties) and it starts hurting your field position, now you are fighting an uphill battle. You can't let that happen and we won't."
If the Lions hope to beat Calgary they need to get the ball to Andrew Harris more.
“ It?s a humiliating experience. It will remind us you have to bring that maximum intensity and flawless execution every week or it's not going to get done. It's a bit of a kick in the ass saying you guys better come to play every week. ”- Dean Valli
The punishing running back leads the league in rushing (311 yards on 56 carries), yards from scrimmage (579) and is the Lions’ leading receiver (18 catches for 268 yards). Yet against Winnipeg he had only eight carries for 38 yards and three catches for 23.
Calgary will be without running backs Jon Cornish and Matt Walker, both out with concussions. This should help a BC defence that has played well this year.
It was the defence which stopped early Winnipeg drives, resulting in the Bombers holding a slim 9-6 lead at half time.
Veteran defensive half back Ryan Phillips preached patience, saying the offence will find its legs.
"We're still growing as a team," he said. "At the end of the day we're not here to point any fingers or anything like that."
"There will come a time when we don't play well as a defence and they (the offence) are going have to bail us out."
The defence could set the tone in Calgary with a big turnover or by scoring a touchdown early.
"We know the type of team Calgary is," said Phillips. "They are hitting on all cylinders right now. They are a confident team because they are winning. At the end of the day they can be exposed just like anybody else."
Benevides said this week will be a test of the Lions’ pride.
"If these guys need to be pissed off to play then I guess we should be pissed off," he said.
Harris said the Lions can't dwell on the mistakes they made against Winnipeg, but have to learn from them.
"We know where we made mistakes," he said. "We have to lick our wounds and get back to it."
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