Mistakes plague defending champs

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- They didn't even get close to receiving the opening kickoff.

Surprisingly, it got worse from there. Who knew the turning point would be losing the opening coin toss?

It was that kind of night in Winnipeg for the Calgary Stampeders, who are now 0-2 and searching for answers.

The message in the locker-room was that of sticking together, not blaming the player next to you and focusing on hard work when they get back on the practice field.

The image on the turf at Canad Inns Stadium was that of sloppiness, especially on offence.

The usually sure-handed Brett Ralph dropped a handful of passes, then fumbled one reception just before halftime.

Quarterback Henry Burris threw a pass well behind Ryan Thelwell into the hands of a Bombers defender.

Jeremaine Copeland stopped on a route, then Burris threw it to where he would be and it was picked off.

A tipped ball at the line turned into seven points the other way.

"It was ugly from start to finish," Burris said. "There's not too much I can say that was good in that game.

"They did what they needed to do, and we sure didn't do what we needed to do.

"We're just not in rhythm. Not in the run, the pass ... anything. It seems like this is team-wide right now. We can't point out to this and that. We have to be more consistent and get on the same page.

"Right now, we're just not having that."

After a Week 1 loss to Montreal in which four regulars were gone from the offence that won the Grey Cup, there was supposed to be a boost from them returning.

But that didn't happen.

Thelwell was a bright spot, as the veteran receiver caught six passes for 101 yards in returning to action from a hamstring injury. Ken-Yon Rambo came back and made eight grabs, but for 52 yards.

There are positives, but those are being overshadowed by the mistakes right now.

"We know everything will come together," Copeland said. "We look good in spurts and it's a matter of it all coming together. We have to keep playing not just every now and then."

No one in the Stamps' locker-room is pointing fingers, especially not at their quarterback.

"We wouldn't think about pointing the fingers at Hank because there are 12 guys out there on that field," Copeland said. "Those 12 guys have to make plays all the way around the board."

This is the second straight game the Stamps were beaten in intensity.

It may be time to start talking about a Grey Cup hangover, as next week's home meeting with Toronto becoming a crucial point to getting it going.

"The only way we get out of this is work hard and stick together," said Burris, repeating what must have been coach John Hufnagel's post-game speech because many players were saying the same thing. "We'll be fine. This team has done too much and come a long way to let this little funk get us down.

"This team has overcome many adversities. We lost two straight last year and years beyond that.

"This is a challenge we have before us and we're going to see what type of team we are."

Added Copeland: "Overall, we're just not making the plays we're supposed to. We're a lot better than this.

"It's looking pretty bad out there. We have to have each other's back. We have to keep pushing forward, play with more confidence and show more heart."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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