Lions look to stop skid

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

It's the final four for the B.C. Lions who want to avoid losing a fourth consecutive game.

Sunday's showdown with the Montreal Alouettes at McGill University's Percival Molson Stadium is the start of a four-game march to the playoffs for the 11-3 Lions.

It'll be a chance for Alouettes revenge for the Sept. 17 loss suffered at B.C. Place Stadium by a single point.

A low-scoring game until the fourth quarter, Als' coach Don Matthews opted to try for a game-winning two-point convert instead of an OT-forcing single after a late TD.

Lions' head coach Wally Buono breathed a huge sigh of relief that night as he entered the dressing room with his players still 11-0. That was the last time the team tasted victory before the 0-3 slump. Montreal is coming off a 38-34 win over the hot Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Buono is fond of telling all that the team wasn't as good as its 11-0 record and isn't as bad as its 0-3 slump. What about when compared to the 2004 club which went to the Grey Cup?

"I don't even remember last year," Buono said. "All I know is today I'd like to fix losing. It doesn't matter what you do good or what you do poorly. When you lose it's all bad. We're not doing enough good things to win."

After 14 games this year, the Lions have scored 434 points and allowed 362. Last year, They had a more potent offence with 477 points and a slightly better defence with just 330 allowed. The big difference? Quarterback Casey Printers.

The scrambling Texan was 282 of 504 for 4,458 yards, with 10 interceptions and 32 TDs at this time last year before Dave Dickenson returned to the lineup. Printers has not been healthy all season after injuring his throwing shoulder in training camp and hurting it again in August in Regina. Now he's just 60 of 97 for 692 yards, a pair of interceptions and no TDs. He may be forced to start in Montreal if Dickenson still feels the effects of the concussion suffered Oct. 1 against the Roughriders and rookie Buck Pierce's bruised knee doesn't heal.

Slotback Geroy Simon was a popular target last year, catching 81 passes for 1,495 yards and a dozen touchdowns through 14 games. This year he has 71 catches for 1,053 yards and just seven touchdowns. Running back Antonio Warren, touted as a player of the year nominee earlier this year, has carried the ball seven more times (155 in 2004 vs. 162 in 2005) for 60 fewer yards, but he's multiplied his four 2004 TDs to 11 in 2005.

Duncan O'Mahony, who lost the tee to 39-year-old Mark McLoughlin, must be shaking his head. He was 26 for 36 at this time in 2004. In 2005, he managed an identical number of field goals, but missed a half-dozen more tries.

Defensively, Barrin Simpson had six more tackles last year at 57, but Brent Johnson is encouraged by four more sacks for a total of 11.

Last year, the team rode the wave of an eight-game, mid-season winning streak and was 10-4 entering the final four games. They went 3-1 and plowed into the playoffs with wins Oct. 17 against the Alouettes in Montreal and back-to-back home wins in successive weeks against Calgary and Saskatchewan.

Can they do the same in 2005?


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