Stamps D-eserve credit for unity

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

The last time they left the Commonwealth Stadium grass, the Calgary Stampeders defence was in a slide.

Now the formerly maligned group is on a roll.

Of the three phases Friday night in a 35-34 win over the Edmonton Eskimos, the defenders were the only ones who could be happy with their performance.

Although Henry Burris threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, he also had three interceptions.

The running attack didn't gain any footing outside of scrambles from Burris.

The special teams units were dismal.

Returner Titus Ryan couldn't field punts with any ease, and Tristan Jackson burned the coverage for a 63-yard punt return.

Ryan fumbled one punt return into Kai Ellis' hands for an easy touchdown.

But through it all, the defence hung in, giving the Stamps offence the ball with 73 seconds left for a chance at victory.

"They stayed together," said Stamps head coach John Hufnagel about his team.

"There was a lot of unity on the sideline. The defence knew what was happening.

"They were playing good football but were put in bad positions. They kept the faith and were urging the offence on.

"They kept saying we just needed two scores. It was nice to see after we scored the first touchdown to get down by six, offensively we got the ball and went two plays and out. We punted, and the defence made a couple plays to get us the ball back."

After a 38-35 defeat Aug. 13 at Commonwealth, the Stamps went into repair mode, bringing in linebacker Tim Johnson and defensive tackles DeVone Claybrooks and Jim Davis.

The tinkering didn't stop despite two straight wins, over the Toronto Argonauts and then the Eskimos on Labour Day, as defensive ends Charleston Hughes and Tearrius George have arrived but have yet to suit up.

Just who gets into the lineup along the line is now a question for Hufnagel.

Davis had three sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a tipped pass, while Johnson led the team with 10 tackles.

"Jim Davis had an outstanding game," Hufnagel said.

"He was all over the place. Fortunately, we were able to get pressure on Ricky Ray last night, and Jim was a big part of it.

"You never complain about these difficult decisions (about who to play).

"We have a lot of fine athletes who are capable of playing, so we will have to figure out who is going to be starting this week."

The Stamps are suddenly the CFL's hottest team having won three in a row to improve their record to 6-4, which puts them into at least a tie for first in the CFL West Division.

Good teams find ways to win when they aren't playing their best, and that was the case Friday night.

Even after a disastrous third quarter, Burris was able to regroup nicely and make a clutch deep throw to Brett Ralph for a 40-yard gain to get into position for a pinpoint touchdown pass to Jeremaine Copeland.

Hufnagel knows not too many teams win by turning the ball over four times. The Esks had three turnovers.

The Stamps are back on what is another tough road trip this week in Hamilton, where the 5-5 Tiger-Cats are 4-1 this season.

"This performance in some ways indicated we're going in the right direction, but there are a lot of other things we need to improve on," Hufnagel said.

"There is a vast room for improvement we need to make from this past game for our next one.

"It was a sloppy game, offensively especially. Special teams were sloppy, as well. The conditions didn't help. There were some problems with the field.

"On the punt return, with the way he was kicking the ball and trying to have a quick start. It was something I could have helped out Titus with by putting two returners back there. I learned something there last night, as well.

"We just can't have that many turnovers and expect to keep winning."

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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