Lions put league's best mark on line in clash with Bombers
Winnipeg, MB (Sports Network) - Sporting the best record in the CFL after seven games, the British Columbia Lions invade Canad Inns Stadium on Friday night as they tangle with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
BC, which lost back-to-back games against Saskatchewan and Edmonton in the middle of July, has rattled off three straight victories to move to 5-2 overall and the team currently sits atop the Western Division standings. Last Sunday, the Lions held their third consecutive opponent to single digits as they recorded a 24-5 victory over the Roughriders at home. By the end of the game the Lions defense had extended their streak of not allowing a touchdown to 13 straight quarters. Cauchy Muamba had two of the Lions' three interceptions in the matchup.
On offense, the Lions were led by Travis Lulay who paced a conservative offense with 257 yards and a score through the air, and another 27 yards and a major on the ground. Geroy Simon logged a game-high six catches, resulting in 44 yards, while Arland Bruce turned three receptions into 93 yards, including a 55-yard TD.
While the Lions were chugging along on both sides of the ball last week, the Blue Bombers were beginning the great Joey Elliott experiment at quarterback, and the young signal-caller did not disappoint.
Elliott, who stepped in for Alex Brink who himself was a backup when the regular season started, may have caused quite a bit of hysteria in a 32-25 victory against Hamilton as he completed 33-of-43 passes for 406 yards and a touchdown. Making just the third start of his three-year career, Elliott became the first Winnipeg quarterback since 2009 to eclipse the 400-yard mark and in doing so earned himself CFL Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Chris Matthews made an impact as he turned eight receptions into 118 yards and a score, while Chad Simpson and Will Ford both registered majors on the ground.
On the defensive side of the ball, Winnipeg gave up a hefty 439 yards on just 59 plays, but still defensive end Alex Hall played well enough to be named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week after logging one sack and a couple of forced fumbles. Thanks to the efforts of Hall and his teammates, the Bombers are by far the most aggressive team in the league when it comes to recovering fumbles, capturing a total of 11 thus far.
While the defense is getting after the ball for the Blue Bombers, unfortunately the offense is giving it right back to the opposition at an alarming rate. After seven games Winnipeg has committed 20 giveaways, the most of any team in the league and because of that the Bombers rank sixth in turnover margin at minus-two.
Taking great care of the ball has been a top priority for the Lions thus far, as they have turned it over a mere seven times, making them the only team in the CFL in single digits in that department. Factor in a total of 15 takeaways and BC easily leads the league with a plus-eight in turnovers.
Among the regular starters, Lulay has one of the lowest interception totals (five) which means he is one of the more efficient game managers even if he isn't that flashy. Third in TD passes with 11, Lulay is completing 68 percent of his attempts and his minimal number of mistakes means he has one of the better passing efficiency ratings (100.3) after seven games.
Spreading the ball around to a variety of receivers forces defenses to be on their toes no matter what personnel the Lions are fielding during any given series. Simon paces the program with 28 catches for 373 yards, but oddly enough, one of the most successful receivers in the history of the game has yet to visit the end zone.
British Columbia, which trails in the all-time series against the Bombers by a count of 83-72-2, taking into consideration only regular-season meetings dating back to 1954, won the first matchup of the season back in late June by a score of 33-16.
In the season opener, Simon set the all-time CFL receiving yards record as the Lions defeated Winnipeg in a rematch of last year's Grey Cup contest at BC Place. Lulay connected on 17-of-25 passes for 233 yards and one touchdown, adding a pair of scores on the ground as well for the defending champs.
Winnipeg starting QB Buck Pierce had his night cut short as he suffered a knee injury near the end of the first half. In his place, Brink converted 14-of-26 attempts for 121 yards and a couple of majors through the air.