Bad memories for Esks

Edmonton Eskimos QB Ricky Ray was embarrassed the last time his team visited B.C. to face the Lions...

Edmonton Eskimos QB Ricky Ray was embarrassed the last time his team visited B.C. to face the Lions in early August. (Edmonton Sun File/Jason Franson)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- For Edmonton Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia, watching the first half of the game tape from his most recent visit to B.C. Place was about as much fun as beating his head against a brick wall.

The B.C. Lions' defence embarrassed the Esks in the opening half on Aug. 4, limiting Ricky Ray - the highest-paid quarterback in the league - and his offensive crew to just 22 measly yards of total offence.

In the process, they also sacked Ray four times. Some teams don't register four sacks in two games, let alone one half.

"That was tough to watch, tough to grade and evaluate and tough to rewatch with the guys for a second, third and fourth time," said Maciocia yesterday, his voice still carrying a hint of frustration. "It has been a while since I have seen something like that - that first half."

And slamming the door on teams in the first half has become the norm for this Lions club during its four-game winning streak.

In fact, it's bordering on ridiculous how good this Lion defence has looked over the last month, grabbing offences by the throat in the first 30 minutes and taking control.

The Leos haven't surrendered a touchdown and are giving up less than three points in the first 30 minutes in this winning streak.

Add that to the fact the Lions can boast about having the league's top defensive lineman (Brent Johnson with nine sacks) and the leading ball hawk (Barron Miles with seven interceptions) and it's no wonder this defence has become the talk of the CFL.

But Edmonton Eskimo offensive tackle Joe McGrath isn't buying everything the media is selling.

Somewhat grudgingly, McGrath gives their defence some credit, but he's not scared or worried one bit heading into tonight's rematch at B.C. Place.

"All you hear now is that the Lions are roaring," said McGrath. "You hear it ...on Sportsnet and TSN and all the major sports channels.

"And yeah, they have done well but I think they're over-hyping it and they're not as good as everyone thinks.

"They're just capitalizing on a few opportunities.

"They have got the hype for a week and we're coming here to shut that down.

"We have got a good game plan ... and we have all the tools to be successful - and repeat in the Grey Cup."

Right beside him tonight in the trench will be offensive guard Dan Comiskey.

And he's not worried, either.

Instead, he paints a different picture than the media machine.

"I feel very comfortable coming in," said Comiskey.

"We had one bad half against them (two weeks ago).

"It is not something we are worried about. It is something we have addressed."

The Esks did manage to put 17 points on the board in the second half on Aug. 4, but it could be argued the Lions weren't exactly playing tight or were completely focused in the later stages of the pounding.

And the Esks can argue they beat B.C. in early July - but that was before the Lions started their winning roll.

Regardless, it should be a very heated battle tonight with the Lions defensive front four - Johnson, Tyrone Williams, Aaron Hunt and Chris Wilson.

"A lot of teams get pressure (on the quarterback) from zone blitzing or bringing one more guy than the offence can block," said B.C. middle linebacker Javy Glatt.

"But we get pressure from a straight four-man rush.

"They do it better than anyone else."

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ROARING LIONS

B.C.'s defence is making a habit of stuffing opponents. Here's a breakdown of their fantastic start to the year:

#1: No. 1 in CFL in defending the pass (237 yards per game), interceptions (17 picks), overall takeaways (28 turnovers).

#2: No. 2 in the CFL in average points per game (19.2) and sacks (25).

#3: No. 3 in the CFL in average yards allowed (309 yards per game).

INDIVIDUAL STATS

BRENT JOHNSON

League leader in sacks (9) *Edmonton has 13 as a team.

BARRON MILES

League leader in picks (7) *Edmonton has 5 as a team.


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