Pat Steinberg is the co-host of the drive home program on Sportsnet Radio FAN 960 in Calgary. He also reports on the CFL and the Stampeders and hosts pre and post-game programs for the team. He looks forward to traveling to the Grey Cup every year. Follow Pat on Twitter @Fan960Steinberg.
The BC Lions won their Western Final matchup against the Edmonton Eskimos thanks to their work in the trenches. I believe it’s that same fact that will see them victorious Sunday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
With absolutely zero disrespect to the East Division champs, I just believe BC’s defensive front will be too much to take when it’s all said and done, while the Lions offensive line will do the job against Winnipeg’s high octane pass rush. I see this one being tight from start to finish, which is why BC’s slight edge on the lines will end up being the difference.
Regular season stats back up both lines for the Lions in this case, starting with their front four defensively. They trailed the Bombers for the league lead in sacks by just one, recording 54 when it was all said and done.
After recording just seven sacks in their first four games (an average of 1.75 per game), the Lions averaged over three per game in the remaining 14 contests, thanks in large part to a shift in defensive philosophy up front, which helped pave the way for the emergence of Khalif Mitchell, who quickly turned into one of the most disruptive forces in Canadian football.
Mitchell and Hunt weren’t paired in the interior in BC’s first two games against Winnipeg (both Lions losses) and I think the combo will play a huge role in a reversal of fortunes in a much more important matchup.
The Bombers have struggled with protection all season long (a league high 46 sacks allowed) and will be under fire right from the get-go on Sunday. Because of what happens in the interior of BC’s line, the Keron Williams-led pack of ends have been able to rack up the sack totals along with their talented linebackers.
The offensive line was just as dominant this season, and watching their second half run it was one of the most noticeable things. Allowing a league best 29 sacks, the Lions were able to protect their superstar quarterback time and time again, letting him loose on CFL defences. What impressed me most was when Travis Lulay started to move, as BC did a great job of moving the pocket around him to extend the play.
It’s a mobile group up front lead by left tackle Ben Archibald, who did exactly what he was asked upon being signed as a big splash free agent. But he’s not the only one who contributed in a large fashion, as the Lions didn’t have three lineman selected to the West Division All Star Team for no reason.
Second year right tackle Jovan Olafioye had an incredible season, giving the Lions two outstanding book ends to their mobile pocket. Right in the middle of it all is Angus Reid, the 11 year CFL veteran who allowed so little through his two gaps this season. I know Winnipeg lead the league in sacks, but there isn’t an offensive line in this country better equipped to handle what the Bombers will throw at you in a title game.
This is a Grey Cup matchup that has two teams who really were the best in their respective divisions. Not only did they win their regular season titles, they also were the best among the back for a good balance of the season.
This will be a close game, which is why BC’s hardened warriors in the trenches will win the day. They’ve been the largest reason for their torrid success since July, and will be the deciding factor in a sixth Lions Grey Cup Championship.