JOGGING OFF the field wearing a smile that had more to do with relief than anything else, Randy Chevrier was asked to assess the Stamps win.
"It wasn't a great performance," shrugged the defensive tackle following a 23-7 triumph over Saskatchewan.
"But it was a step in the direction we need to go, which is putting wins in the win column. We didn't beat ourselves and we didn't let up in the end, which is what we've done in previous games. Tonight we sealed the coffin on 'em."
And with it, the hosts laid to rest a three-game losing skid that had the city wondering if the club was worthy of the pre-season hype. Yet, during that same skid, all the players talked about how they had been their own worst enemies.
Costly penalties, missed tackles, simple drops, turnovers and an uncanny ability to choke in the redzone were the club's trademarks en route to a 3-4 start.
Last night, all that changed.
And while none of the 20,000 Stamps fans (or the 14,000 Riders fans for that matter) left McMahon feeling particularly overwhelmed by the effort or entertainment value, the Stamps finally managed to make fewer mistakes than the opposition.
"We still have a long way to go," said linebacker Brian Clark, returning to the lineup after a three-game hiatus.
"That potential -- that's such a dangerous word for us -- it's just matter of living up to it and making plays. Not beating ourselves is something we stress all week in practice, it's just a matter of us going out and doing it. The coaches can coach all they can but it's still up to us not to make the dumb plays and the dumb penalties and for the most part we kept it under control today."
After finding the endzone twice in their previous three games, Henry Burris' offence was noticeably more conservative last night. Mixing the brilliance of running back Joffrey Reynolds in nicely with an evening of short passes, Burris was 21 of 33 for 255 yards and two majors.
He wisely threw the ball away several times to avoid losing field position or forcing a pass where he often winds up being picked off. Neither of his two interceptions cost the club as a Davin Bush pick in the third led to nothing, as did a Rotarius Robinson steal in the final two minutes.
A Stamps procedure call on the nine-yard line in the second quarter drew moans from the crowd, only to have Burris find Nik Lewis in the endzone the very next play.
An embarrassing offside call against Marcus Howell negated a Jeremaine Copeland touchdown late in the evening but the game was out of reach by then.
"It didn't hurt us but it hurt me -- that's the second time I've hit the endzone and there's been a penalty," laughed Copeland, who caught three passes for 24 yards and was given few chances to live up to the hype surrounding him all week.
"We still didn't execute to the best of our ability but we executed enough to get the win and that's all that matters right now."
There are those who will be sure to suggest kicker Sandro DeAngelis pulled a Roman Turek by signing a lucrative deal and then tanking but the truth is only one of his two misses (an early 29-yarder) can be questioned. The other was a 50-yard attempt.
With back to backs against Montreal and Edmonton on tap, the test now is finding a way to dominate instead of simply finding ways not to lose.