Near-perfect D out to improve

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Talk about a tough critic.

On the heels of an outstanding defensive performance in yesterday's throttling of the Edmonton Eskimos, Stampeders linebacker Tim Johnson said he expected better next time around.

"We can't be satisfied with that," he said moments after the 32-8 victory in the Labour Day Classic at McMahon.

"We've got to re-raise the bar, go to work and see if we can get better."

Save for a late touchdown drive when the game had already been decided, the Calgary defenders were nearly perfect. For nearly 60 minutes, they held the Esks to two meas- ly points.

Quarterback Ricky Ray, and receivers Fred Stamps and Kamau Peterson were non-factors.

About the only people wearing Green and Gold who could be happy with their performance on the McMahon Stadium turf were the cheerleaders.

But something about that long drive, 103 yards, as the clock was winding down stuck in Johnson's craw.

"We cannot give that up," he said.

"We've got to look at it and see what we gave up there because they may come out and try to attack us the same way. I think at the end of the game they started looking to their game plan for the next game."

Hey, that attitude would be a good thing in the Stampeders locker-room for the second half of the season, which kicks off Friday with the rematch in Edmonton against what will be a snarly Eskimos squad.

When the final gun sounded before the Labour Day record crowd of 40,729, Eskimos running back Arkee Whitlock had only 36 yards rushing -- three quarters of it came when the result was no longer in doubt.

Ricky Ray threw for 274 yards but didn't threaten in the red zone until it was too late. The only offensive player who made their mark for the Eskimos was receiver Maurice Mann.

"We fed off one another, I think," said defensive lineman Jim Davis, who made his Stamps debut. "The offence fed off the defence, and the defence fed off the offence. For us to come out and stop the run, first of all, is huge.

"And the secondary played lights out. I don't care what anybody says. Our secondary was great, the d-line did their job. If we continue to do that the rest of the season, we'll be in great shape."

Speaking of the secondary, among the potential man of the hour candidates had to be cornerback Keon Raymond.

Raymond had the chore of replacing Brandon Browner and knew full well the visitors would be looking his way.

"Men wait a long time to get opportunities, and I think Raymond is one of those guys who waited his turn and stepped up," Johnson said.

"You know what, he's the guy to fill Browner's spot until he steps back."

Raymond, who is something of a utility player on the defence, finally had his chance to shine this season and did the job.

"This is an opportunity I've been praying for," he said.

"I'm thankful I was able to step up to the challenge," he said. "I came in here thinking, 'No vertical routes. No deep balls.'

"Everybody, all 42 on the roster and on the field, was holding himself accountable and was ready to step up and make that play when they had the opportunity to."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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