History will bite the Lions | Football | CBC Sports

CFLHistory will bite the Lions

Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 | 11:49 AM

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Blue Bombers late-season star Chris Garrett is coming off a 190-yard performance against Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Final. (John Woods/Canadian Press) Blue Bombers late-season star Chris Garrett is coming off a 190-yard performance against Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Eastern Final. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

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The Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-8, 1-0 in playoffs) will defeat the B.C. Lions (11-7, 1-0 in playoffs) in the 99th Grey Cup Game, Sunday night (6:30 p.m. ET) at B.C. Place in Vancouver.

"I just wanted to tell you both ... good luck ... we're all counting on you."
                   Leslie Nielsen, as Dr. Rumack, in Airplane.

Riding high on a never-before-seen 3-1 playoff streak, it's time to put the reputation on the line and pick the Grey Cup winner.

Hardest choice in many a year, but here we go...

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-8, 1-0 in playoffs) will defeat the B.C. Lions (11-7, 1-0 in playoffs) in the 99th Grey Cup Game, Sunday night (6:30 p.m. ET) at B.C. Place in Vancouver.

CFL officials could not possibly have had two more evenly matched teams in their showcase event, and as long as you're not one of those nutcases who think the only way to have a good game is to see 90 points scored, you're in for a treat.

This is the best defensive team (B.C. - 385 points allowed) vs. the third best (Winnipeg - 432). More on this below.

You have kickers in the Lions' Paul McCallum and Winnipeg's Justin Palardy/Mike Renaud who are pretty much even.

There's the giveaway-takeaway ratio, with the Bombers just two ahead of the Lions, both far better than anyone else in the league except the Edmonton Eskimos, who aren't here.

In sacks, B.C. had 54, one less than Winnipeg's 55, so more than one city had the right to show some swagger.

Neither club has an offence that will really scare the other, though both are efficient and seem to score enough points to win. The Lions rolled up 511 points in the regular season, while the Bombers had 432, a difference of 79, or 4.4 a game.

Hardly enough to really get your blue and gold shorts in a knot.

Look, I agree completely with the Lions defenders, who caused the Bombers D to scowl and bark this week by saying they're better. They are.

You can throw as many stats categories at me as you want (Winnipeg was No. 1 in 12 this year and led B.C. in 16 of them), but that's merely detail. All that matters is the points on the scoreboard, and the Lions allowed 47 less than Sunday's visitors.

There are other things that seem to be in B.C.'s favour, including the almost hidden talent of Tim Brown, who put together the quietest 2,017 yards in combined offence (3rd overall) you can imagine.

Old fart Geroy Simon has been inspirational this season catching the ball, and he has Shawn Gore, Arland Bruce and Andrew Harris as a strong supporting cast.

Lulay emerged

Travis Lulay emerged in just his second year at the controls (that's amazingly quick for a CFL quarterback) and finished second behind Anthony Calvillo in yardage.

B.C. has lost just once since starting 1-6 and Winnipeg is 3-7 since their blast out of the gate.

On the plus side, Winnipeg has late-season star Chris Garrett coming off a 190-yard performance in the deep freeze against Hamilton.

But B.C. has done well stopping the run against Winnipeg this season, and besides, this is indoors where defenders have good footing and don't worry about a squadron of bees going down their spine every time they try to tackle somebody.

Winnipeg won both matchups

Head-to-head, Winnipeg won both of the matchups, including 25-20 on July 28, but you can't get a read on that because it was the game after their defensive line coach, Richard Harris, had died, so the emotions were high.

The other was Aug. 13, a 30-17 victory by Big Blue at Empire Field.

You can argue that both those games came before the Lions were really off their early season funk (that second one was Bruce's debut at receiver, as well, and he's made a huge difference to the B.C. attack), so it may not tell the tale.

Perhaps, but both games featured second-half collapses by the orange and black, and that had to be concerning.

Still, if you gathered up all the above, and folded in how B.C. did last week against Edmonton, you'd might be tempted to pick the Lions.

I'm not.

     "I just wanted to tell you both ... good luck ... we're all counting on you."
                           Leslie Nielsen, as Dr. Rumack, in Airplane.

Trivia: In the 51 Grey Cup games played since 1960, how many have featured the home team?

Answer: Just nine.

Trivia: Of those nine host teams, how many have actually won the Grey Cup in their own city?

Answer: Three. Hamilton in 1972, Montreal in 1977 and the last time by the Lions themselves, in 1994 against the Baltimore Stallions on a famous last-second field goal by St. Lui Passaglia.

Unbelievable pressure

Why? The pressure is unbelievable just to get there as a host. For a year you hear "Wow, wouldn't it be great to play the Grey Cup at home?" from the press, and the fans, and your neighbours and your wife. The owner hints. The general manager threatens. The coach begs.

If you make the game, the other team comes into town and cocoons in the hotel, away from the madding crowd, concentrating totally on the task ahead.

The hosting team gets seven days of calls from people they haven't heard from since high school, looking for tickets. They get everyone from Frank down the street (and his seven kids) to the cab driver to the waitress at breakfast quoting Leslie Nielsen at you.

Meaning well, of course.

It's in your face all week. We're counting on you. Do it, boys. Do it, for us. DO IT!!!

Wally Buono can get the most out his men, and he's actually played at home in the Cup twice with Montreal (went 1-1).

But, history will bite the Lions.

P.S.: Here's a bonus prediction for those who have asked this week. Win or lose, there will not be a riot outside the stadium.

"I just wanted to tell you both ... good luck ... we're all counting on you."
               Leslie Nielsen, as Dr. Rumack, in Airplane.

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