They’ve heard the storylines, the same old tropes trotted out all season. Vernon Adams Jr. throws too many picks. They’re vulnerable on the back end to the deep ball. They can’t run the ball nor stop the run.
The B.C. Lions host the Calgary Stampeders in Saturday’s West Division Semifinal, and they say they’re ready for the game, and ready to answer those questions.
The Stamps played bully ball in their last meeting, rushing the ball 31 times for 213 yards, with Peyton Logan logging 105 of those, and Ka’Deem Carey another 88.
“Regardless of whatever the narratives may be, the main thing for us is to focus on ourselves,” said Lions defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips. “The narrative can be people say the offence will ‘allow’ us to do and things like that. We’ve never preached that. We’re going to go out there and dictate. We’re gonna tell you what you can and can’t do.
“We’re gonna go and stick to the pieces that got us here. We’re 12-6 for a reason, they’re 6-12 for a reason. I don’t care how you map it up.
“Don’t try to make this fake thing up that because they won two games in the last six, they’re hot. I’m not buying it. We’re gonna go out there and do what we’ve been doing. We’ve been dominant against them before and I expect nothing different from this game.”
Here’s three things to watch …
RELEASE THE BETTS
Mathieu Betts just wants to have fun.
“It’s fun, obviously,” said the Leos’ rush end who led the league with 18 sacks, a third of B.C.’s West-topping total of 55. “It’s a long season. Coming into this year’s training camp, my whole thing was to stay consistent throughout the year and hopefully stack up enough wins to have the chance to play in the playoffs. That’s what we play for … for when it’s meaningful.
“We’re here now, so it’s not the time to look back at what we did good this season, what we did wrong — it’s time to play good football right now.
“I’m going to enjoy the day tomorrow, play hard football and hopefully if we all do that, and stick together … we’ll have the results we want.”
Fun aside, getting to Calgary quarterback Jake Maier plays a big component of the Lions’ defensive schemes. Pressure up front leads to forced passes, incompletions or sacks. They had one sack in their 41-16 loss in their final regular-season game against Calgary; they had five in their two dominant wins in Weeks 1 and 10.
And it’s not just about Betts and Co. up front, it means having good coverage in the defensive backfield.
“Our ability to pass-rush has definitely been one of the top things we’ve been able to do this year,” said Phillips. “I think our veteran savvy and our veteran presence is gonna come out. We got guys on the back end that I feel like are up to the task and want to prove a point that we could be dominant … regardless of whatever we play back there, to enable our front line to go ahead and get after the quarterback. And that’s the biggest thing for us.”
FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT
The CFL is too small, too migratory, for players to build up true animosity toward each other, but the Lions and the Stamps seem to have done their best.
In their last meeting there were plenty of flags, post-play pushing matches, uppercuts that were caught on tape and (alleged) loogies that weren’t. Sione Teuhema lost his appeal for punching Calgary’s D’Antne Demery, the accused spitter of a “nasty” ball of phlegm and saliva, and will miss Saturday’s game.
And we’re not far removed from Cam Judge’s post-game pugilism on Lucky Whitehead in 2022, that precipitated a heated parking-lot showdown.
But there was no locker-room material to be gleaned ahead of the biggest game of the season for both teams.
Asked his opinion of Calgary, Lions receiver Alex Hollins answered thusly:
“How do I feel about Calgary?”
Pauses some more.
“I’ve got nothing personal against them. I’m just ready to play football.”
SECOND AND FOREVER
The book on Adams, or at least the latest chapter, seems to be rush with three, cover well downfield and eventually pressure will get to him. The Stamps used that formula in the last game, and it worked. The Lions had three first-half points, and only two drives longer than 15 yards — one of which went for 33.
“They dropped eight or nine a few times and had us in second-and-long, second-and-10 quite a bit. We can’t live in that down and distance against a great defence like that,” said Adams. “They were just taking (my) first reads away, and I just have to be better at my resets and getting into my second, third read, running back into the flat, use my feet, whatever.
“They had a great game plan and I’m just excited for the competition tomorrow.”
With the run game almost an afterthought in the Lions’ offence — they average a CFL-low in attempts (16.5 per) and yards (77.3) — B.C. has to continue to connect on their first-down pass attempts in order to stay on the field.
“We can’t live in second-and-long. We have to get yards,” said Adams. “I made that clear to the offence this week that we have to get yards on first down. Live in the second and manageable … so that way we can have a chance to really move the chains.”
Adams is best when hitting on quick passes, but when he did take his time, he wasn’t shy to go deep — a lot. He was 53-of-118 for 1,615 yards and 20 touchdowns on passes over 20 yards this year. The next closest QB was Zach Collaros, at 41-of-91, 1,505 yards and 16 TDs.
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