Big ones that got away

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

Ranking in the top half of every important offensive category, it's obvious the Calgary Stampeders have had big plays go their way.

It's the ones that have gone against them that are the concern heading into their last 11 games of the CFL season.

While the defence has been dominant against the run, defending the deep ball has brought about concern. It's a big reason the Stamps are 4-3 instead of 6-1 or 7-0.

"Coach Huf (John Hufnagel) talked about it during one of the team meetings," said cornerback Dwight Anderson. "We've got to put an emphasis on getting the deep balls, making plays."

They have seen unlucky breaks go for scores -- like the long bomb Calvin Bannister deflected before Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver Adarius Bowman scooped it out of the air for a touchdown in their last meeting -- but there have been even more instances of miscues.

"Two guys going for the ball, both of them hitting each other," Anderson offered as an example.

Ironing out their communication in the defensive backfield is one of Hufnagel's priorities.

The responsibility, though, doesn't rest solely with the defensive backs.

"On defence, I think we need to make the quarterback more uncomfortable -- force him into some mistakes," said Hufnagel. "We need to get more interceptions, and they kind of go hand-in-hand.

"We've got to make some plays on the deeper throws."

Those three major areas address everything but the run defence, where the Stamps score top marks in net yards against, average yards allowed per game and fewest first downs yielded on the ground.

The eye-opening areas of deficiency come in the form of game-changing plays -- the Stamps have a league-low five interceptions and the second-worst total of 10 sacks.

Defensive end Mike Labinjo, a beast who has been forced to switch to linebacker due to injuries, says keeping teams from controlling the clock has been their first priority, but they want to take pressure off the pass by getting more pressure on the quarterbacks.

"We definitely want to pick it up in the sack department," said the 6-ft., 284-lb. Labinjo.

"It all starts up front. If we're doing our job up front in the passing game, it makes the DBs' jobs a lot easier. The CFL, man, the field is huge. Sometimes, you've got to feel bad for those guys back there."

Anderson is excited about getting some help from the men on the front lines.

"If the d-line gets that pressure, then we can get some toss-ups, get some picks," said Anderson, adding little improvements on defence are things Hufnagel is stressing right now.

"He pointed out little things we have to straighten out to be a better team,a championship team. We're one of the better teams in the league, but we still have things to work on."


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