Ullrich: Defence gets it done for Lions

 It was billed as a salute to the trades by the B.C. Lions but judging by the most dominant aspect of their 26-14 win over the Ottawa Redblacks it also evidently was a throwback night as well, with the roles of Brent Johnson and Herman Smith being played Friday by Odell Willis and Shawn Lemon.  Some points to ponder:

Defence never rests: Willis didn’t react adversely, at least in public, a few weeks back after general manager Ed Hervey walked behind the Lions bench during a recent game and suggested to the Lions most decorated defensive end that he wasn’t brought here to simply take up space.

Message received, however. Willis has been better ever since the sideline conference, and for that matter so have everyone around him on defence.

There were suggestions early that the 33-year-old had little left after the Edmonton Eskimos moved him to Ottawa and eventually the Lions during the off-season. You can’t say that after Willis posted three sacks in the win.

The trade to acquire Lemon has made Willis more effective, and in turn has helped the interior rotation anchored by Davon Coleman and rookie Claudell Louis.

B.C. still appears vulnerable to the run at times. William Powell of the Redblacks got 82 tough yards from 17 carries Friday. But if the Lions continue to get pressure with four and defensive coordinator Mark Washington continues to mix his looks, they can be taken seriously.

“There was a point in time four or five games ago that our guys decided we’re a better man pressure team,” coach Wally Buono told TSN 1040 after the game. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on our DBs because we’re playing an awful lot of man coverage against some great receivers. To keep them to 14 points is a lot of credit to the defensive coaches and the players to what they are asked to do.”

With three interceptions that easily could have matched their six sacks, the Lions briefly chased Redblacks quarterback Trevor Harris and held Ottawa to 254 yards offence, which was needed because the Lions generated only 229 on their own.

There are no parade routes being drawn up for a Lions team that started play Friday with its worst record over a 22-game stretch (6-16) in more than two decades. At 6-5, the Redblacks also clearly represent another kind of enigma, considering Harris had turned in an amazing six straight 300-yard passing games against the Lions before fizzing Friday.

But Washington might have recognized the defence effort Friday like the one he played on with the Lions back in the day.

Time to act: League commissioner Randy Ambrosie wastes few opportunities to stress the importance of player safety and has ruled more decisively than perhaps any of his predecessors on acts requiring supplemental punishment.

If he follows form, there may be another Ottawa player besides linebacker Kyries Hebert on the suspended list after a first-half hit knocked Lions quarterback Travis Lulay out of the game, at least as the Lions viewed the matter.

J.R. Tavai of the Redblacks appeared to be guilty of what would have been called spearing back in Ambrosie’s day as a player, prompting a reaction from Lions coach Wally Buono that surely seemed to represent the view of most onlookers.

“How can you miss that call?” Buono was caught on by TSN as saying about the play, which did not draw a penalty and marked the start of Jon Jennings’ rehab tour. Hebert got two games presumably as a repeat offender but if the league ultimately rules in favour of the Redblacks player there surely will be a few more mothers asking if they should let their sons play football.

“We got to lobby for the video official to have more say on things of that nature because that protects the officials and integrity of the game. That’s all were asking for,” said Buono afterwards.

“Player safety has to be the number one thing.” There was no way for centre Cody Husband to avoid the broken fibula he suffered on the first play of the game that will mark the end of his season. Lulay cleared concussion protocol before the end of the game but that shouldn’t diminish what the Ottawa defender surely must have coming.

No deal, no talk: Buono doesn’t have to worry about contracts anymore and Ricky Foley has gone on to dabble as an occasional Saskatchewan Roughriders pre-game party host but it is clear a celebrated non-contract involving both is playing into the unfolding scenario around receiver DeVier Posey.

Both 3DownNation and TSN reported that Posey had agreed to terms with the Lions hours before the game Friday. However the Lions weren’t saying anything, mindful of the time Foley did the same thing and did a celebrated u-turn to sign with the Toronto Argonauts.

A B.C. official said Posey had shut off his phone during the Lions game, and there was concern that both the Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats had made inquiries whether he was interested in playing football east of the Rockies even though he had made a verbal commitment to Hervey.

No signed contract, no announcement, as it should be, for the Lions, but expect word quickly if the deal is completed and registered given the circumstances.

 

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
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Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (167 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.