November 15, 2012
Lions' defence has upper hand on Stamps
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - If the age-old adage that defence wins championships were to ring true every time, it should be pretty clear which team has the upper hand heading into the West final on Sunday.
As dangerous as both offences are, and as much headlines as the quarterbacks on either side tend to generate, it's on defence where the B.C. Lions have a distinct advantage over the Calgary Stampeders -- at least if you look at the numbers.
The Leos are first in 18 of the 25 defensive categories, having allowed the fewest first downs, fewest yards, fewest points, and have racked up the most quarterback sacks. Featuring a secondary with more than 40 seasons of experience in the CFL, the veteran unit has been the most efficient and consistent in the league this year, a huge factor behind the Lions' 13-5 record.
"We feel confident with what we've got going on," linebacker Adam Bighill said. "We're going to play football like we always do. We just need everybody to play together, communicate and get all the helmets to the football."
Defensive end Keron Williams adds that the team's focus has always been about keeping things simple.
"Championship games are all about turnovers and who controls the ball the most," he said. "We have to be direct to the point of attack and try to give (quarterback Travis Lulay) and the offence a chance to put points up."
As if the B.C. defence weren't tough enough to play against, they will have the backing of potentially 45,000 supporters at BC Place, which will make communication that much more difficult for quarterback Kevin Glenn and the Stampeders offence.
"When they say football is 10% physical and 90% mental, that's where it kicks in when the crowd is making noise," Lions defensive back Korey Banks said. "You really can't communicate and you have to know the guys around you, you have to have that camaraderie. We know how to play with the noise.
"Playoff time, we get just as loud as any team in the league."
The Lions' success at home is no secret.
They have won 14 of their last 15 at BC Place -- including the 2011 Grey Cup game -- since it's re-opening in September 2011 following renovations. The only blemish came in Week 4 against the Edmonton Eskimos, but since then the Lions have won six straight in Vancouver.
And there's no denying the crowd has played a role in it.
"If you can imagine someone standing five feet next to you and you're screaming at them and they can't hear what you're saying, that's how loud it is," Bighill said. "You can't talk out there because no one can hear. It's definitely an advantage for us defensively."
While Thursday's news out of Calgary -- quarterback Drew Tate has a broken arm and won't play on Sunday -- may have been a surprise to some, the Lions aren't worried about Glenn getting the start.
"It doesn't really change (anything)," head coach Mike Benevides said of the pivot change by the Stamps. "We have a lot of experience playing against (Glenn). The hardest thing with him is that he's such an accurate passer that's gone through this before, where maybe Drew would have been the wildcard.
"We just go back and look at the games that we've played against him and find what works. We know who Kevin is."
Even so, a certain Lions defender voiced his so-so disappointment in not being able to face Tate, who threw for a touchdown in a brief appearance against the Lions on Oct. 26.
"I was looking forward to playing against Drew," Banks said. "We never had a good chance to play against him a full game. But we're looking forward to playing whoever has that helmet on with the horse on it.
"We (just have to) play football like we know how to play."