Patience will be the key to the 99th Grey Cup Game
Like everyone, I am really looking forward to the game on Sunday. Personally, I believe that this is going to be a ferocious pad-slapping collision between two teams that are extremely fast and ready to lay it all on the line. The fact that both teams have very strong defences makes it a very tough game to predict because turnovers always factor in to who wins.
With a 4-14 record in 2010, the Bombers' turnaround season is a testament to the fine line between winning and losing. Hats off to head coach Paul LaPolice for having the confidence in his players to make the highly criticized decision at the beginning of the 2011 season to keep 22 of his 24 starters from the previous year.
One player that LaPolice chose to roll the dice with again this season is quarterback Buck Pierce. Starting the season, many suggested that Winnipeg could have success with their strong defence if
Pierce was able to stay healthy.
If asked, B.C. head coach Wally Buono would consistently reiterate that the reason why he did not re-sign Pierce was not because of a lack of talent, but because he did not want to have team uncertainty based on if Pierce was going to be able to play each week.
The problem that Pierce has is that he believes that he can make something happen on every play. Although this mentality is what makes him such a scrappy quarterback, it also leads to punishing hits and turnovers.
Winnipeg's offensive line gave up more sacks than any other team in the league this year. The reason has less to do with their ability and more to do with the fact that Pierce repeatedly refused to listen to the internal clock in his head that was screaming to him to get rid of the football. A quarterback needs to understand that if a play has not developed inside of 3-4 seconds they need to throw the ball into the first row of the stands and avoid the hit and the sack.
Pierce also thew more interceptions than any other quarterback in the CFL this year. Again, he needs to appreciate that the Lions have a very good defecse and not every play is going to work as anticipated. If the Bombers are going to have success against the Lions, Pierce can't force plays to happen but rather needs to stay patient and consistently complete the plays that the defence is giving to him.
The problem: Pierce has not shown to be a patient guy.
The fact that the B.C. offensive line gave up the fewest number of sacks this year has less to do with how solid they are up front and more to do with the fact that Travis Lulay has grasped the concept that not every play is going to work, and he's willing to throw the ball away.
The last time these two teams met, in August, the Bomber defence completely frustrated Lulay, who completed only 12 passes for 103 yards and was eventually pulled from the game.
Big games come down to which team makes the fewest amount of mistakes and commits the fewest number of turnovers. The quarterback that exhibits the most patience through the game will go a long way in determining the outcome.
Playing with your eyes
What separates these two defences from all others in the CFL is the fact that they both have big boys up front that can pressure the quarterback, and players in the secondary that "play with their eyes" extremely well.
What I mean by that is they are players who understand the game well enough to see the offensive play develop in order to anticipate where the ball will be thrown rather than simply reacting to the play as it happens. Although this seems like a subtle difference, it is what turns making a tackle on the play into the ability to make an interception.
A great matchup in this game will be the battle between Most Outstanding Player Lulay and Most Outstanding Defensive Player Jovon Johnson. Bomber defensive coordinator Tim Burke will move Johnson all over the field to place him in position to make a play.
The quarterbacks can not afford to get frustrated in this game because both teams have players that are able to pounce on forced throws.Key Injuries
Winnipeg cornerback Brandon Stewart will be replaced by Deon Beasley this game. Watch for Lulay to take advantage of Beasley's inexperience.
Lions safety J.R. LaRose went down last week with a severe "burner" that left him with the loss of function in his arms for several minutes. Nerve damage that is caused by "burners" is what ended my career so I know all too well the pain and effect that it has on your play.
LaRose needs to be careful with this. I would not be surprised to see him go down again this game with a similar experience. If he stays in the game following the injury, it will be tough for him to instinctively engage into contact knowing that the next hit will immediately make him lose sensation in his arms again.
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