Stampeders take in horror flick

This photo -- with Henry Burris looking skyward in frustration -- could aptly sum up the Stampeders...

This photo -- with Henry Burris looking skyward in frustration -- could aptly sum up the Stampeders season to date. While the offence has caught fire of late, the defence has struggled mightily. (Darren Makowichuk, Sun Media)

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

The way cornerback Dwight Anderson described it, it sounded like a horror show.

Members of the Calgary Stampeders' defensive unit filed solemnly out of a meeting room yesterday at McMahon Stadium, many disgusted by what they'd witnessed viewing film of Thursday's last-minute loss to the Edmonton Eskimos.

"That was atrocious. That was terrible. That's nothing like we practise at all," Anderson said. "Now that we've watched the tape and I've had a chance to see what really went on, we gave that game to them."

Ricky Ray's 23-yard touchdown pass to sure-handed slotback Fred Stamps with nine seconds left on the clock was the knockout punch in Thursday's 38-35 wild West Division shootout at Commonwealth Stadium.

The Eskimos faithful fell into a hush after Stampeders pass-catcher Jeremaine Copeland snuck into the endzone to give the visitors a four-point lead in the waning moments, but Ray needed just three plays and 29 seconds to work the fans back into a frenzy and cement the come-from-behind victory.

Hard-hitting safety Milt Collins shouldered the blame on the game-winning touchdown pass to Stamps, saying he botched his assignment on the pivotal play.

But Anderson cautioned against calling it a tough break or pointing the finger at just one guy.

"Ain't no bounces, ain't bad luck or none of that. That's on our shoulders, period," Anderson said. "I play on the defence and I'm a part of that. I take part of that blame, too. We had an opportunity to go out there and close it out and we didn't, so we all failed."

Long before the dust settled at Commonwealth Stadium, it was obvious whichever team lost the back-and-forth affair was going to face questions about their inability to stop the offensive onslaught.

Ray racked up 342 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while the Eskimos churned up another 174 yards along the ground.

Henry Burris, meanwhile, had a career-high 479 passing yards and tossed three touchdown strikes of his own. The all-star pivots took turns making the opposing defence look silly. Thing is, Ray had the last go.

"The bottom line is who makes the most plays at the end to win, and we came up short," said Stampeders boss John Hufnagel, summing things up.

The Stampeders boasted the CFL's most stingy defence in 2008, but that's proven to be a tough act to follow.

With seven new starters on the defensive side of the ball, the reigning champions have surrendered 26.6 points per game, including an average of 36 points in four losses -- albeit not all on defence.

Injuries have also taken a toll. Defensive lineman Mike Labinjo is sidelined with a knee injury, while linebacker Tray Blackmon hobbled off the field in Edmonton and was waiting for the results of an MRI yesterday. Halfback Brandon Smith hasn't seen the field since injuring his knee in the pre-season and isn't close to returning.

For the rest of the Stamps defenders, the wounds are mental -- and still fresh.

And none were smiling yesterday as they parted ways for the bye week.

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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