The B.C. Lions may be looking for their third win in a row, but coach DeVone Claybrooks says his team still has plenty room for improvement.
“We still haven’t played a perfect game by my standards,” he said on Friday. ”We’re just trying to get better and trying to win the next game.”
The Lions’ next test will be much tougher than their previous two outings — wins over the free-falling Ottawa Redblacks. On Saturday, the Lions (3-10) host the Montreal Alouettes (7-5), who have won four of their past five.
B.C. already faced Montreal once this season, dropping a 21-16 decision back on Sept. 6.
But this week, the Als will be without quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who was suspended by the CFL after swinging a helmet at Winnipeg’s Adam Bighill in Montreal’s 38-37 comeback win last week.
Alouettes coach Khari Jones said missing his starting QB is “unfortunate” but the club accepts it and will move on with Matt Shiltz at the helm.
“We’ll be OK,” he told reporters in Montreal this week. ”These guys rally together really well. I have all the faith in the world in (Shiltz) and I’m excited to see him get out there and play. He’s been practising really well.”
The Lions haven’t been thinking too much about who’ll be tossing for their opponents, Claybrooks said.
“We can’t control who plays,” he said. “All I’m worried about is what we do. … If we focus on us, execute and do our thing, we’ll be fine.”
Shiltz has slotted into two games this season, completing 11-of-16 attempts for 107 passing yards, and said this week that he’s ready to go out and do whatever’s asked of him on a given play.
“Whether that’s hand the ball off 40 times a game or have 50 pass attempts, I just go out there, read the defence and get the ball to the open guy,” he said.
“When you think about it that way, it’s a pretty simple game so I’m going to go out there, do everything I can to move the ball down the field, protect the football and hopefully come out on top.”
Claybrooks called the 26-year-old Butler University alum ”a mobile kid (who) can make all the throws,” but said the Lions will be focusing on shutting down the Als’ run game.
Running back William Stanback already has 748 rushing yards and five touchdowns for the Als in 10 games this season.
He could also get some help from former Lion Jeremiah Johnson, who’s expected to be back in the lineup after missing two games with a concussion.
B.C. will also have to work around what Lions quarterback Mike Reilly called “a very good defence.”
“They’re not really the team that’s going to have busted coverages and breakdowns and things like that that you’re going to be able to take a bunch of big shots over the top,” he said.
Instead, Reilly expects that his offence will have to make long, sustained drives.
That task has become a bit easier for the veteran quarterback in recent weeks, thanks in part to a stronger offensive line.
While the Lions allowed 42 sacks in the first 10 games of the season, Reilly has been hauled down just four times over the past three games.
He credited “fantastic” protection across the field with allowing him to make big plays.
“I think we’ve all done a better job on protection, but certainly it starts up front (with the offensive line),” he said. “Protecting really well, but also getting the run game going. That always makes it a lot easier on the back end.”
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (7-5) AT B.C. LIONS (3-10)
Saturday, B.C. Place
PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS: The Lions’ faint hope of a post-season berth could be snuffed out this week if they lose to the Alouettes and the Edmonton Eskimos beat the Ottawa Redblacks.
SCORING BIG: Montreal has 24.8 points per game heading into Saturday’s contest, good for second in the league. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers lead the CFL with 25.8.
TOUGH CROWD: The Alouettes haven’t won at B.C. Place since Aug. 20, 2015. Still, Montreal has been decent on the road this season, going 3-3.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press