Stamps QB settles in

Henry Burris calls the snap during a Stampeders practice on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Lyle Aspinall)

Henry Burris calls the snap during a Stampeders practice on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Lyle Aspinall)

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Henry Burris is back smilin' in the saddle after a few rocky rides.

Just in time, too, since the Calgary Stampeders are in a showdown for top spot in the CFL's West Division.

The defending Grey Cup champions need his arm -- and his aim -- over the final three weeks of the regular-season schedule to clinch a playoff berth and to set themselves up for the best possible run at a second straight championship.

In fact, a win tomorrow against the rival Edmonton Eskimos at McMahon Stadium (8 p.m., TSN) ensures a playoff appearance for Burris and the Stampeders.

"I don't think we were in a slump -- I think it was growing pains," said Burris, when asked about the team's offensive stumbles leading into last Saturday's improved performance in a tie with the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders. "But based on the way we've played in the past, it was definitely a type of slump. We weren't consistent -- we weren't playing consistent at all."

Burris' own recent numbers reflect the trials.

In the four games prior to last weekend's 44-44 tie with the Roughriders, the veteran quarterback completed well under 50% of his passes and averaged just 168 yards a game.

"We've had a lot of turnover and new personnel in our offence," said Burris, who has only worked the last month with new receivers Romby Bryant and Arjei Franklin after they were acquired in a trade with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to beef up the pass-catching corps.

"Offences are built on knowing the guys out there, so when you put new guys in, there's going to be some growing pains. That's definitely what we went through in the passing game.

Fortunately for the Stamps, they went 2-2 in that span, including winning a 15-14 squeaker over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

"I never let it get to me," said Burris of the games in which the air attack sputtered and the offence stuggled to finish drives.

"I just need to push through it. We just have to have better communication, and we have to make sure, in practice, we get on the same page.

"It was just more me trying to get on the same page as the guys," Burris continued. "You saw a lot of miscommunication, where I was throwing to one place and the guys were expecting it in another place. It's stuff that's still happening, but again it's part of a growing process.

"That's just a fact of how a season is, especially when you have new personnel out there."

Against the Riders last weekend at McMahon Stadium, Smilin' Hank appeared to find a stronger connection with his receivers, as the quarterback rediscovered his old gunslinging touch, completing 22-of-33 passes for 280 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Burris' sharp execution on the club's first drive foreshadowed what would be a solid effort by the quarterback.

"Anytime you get consecutive completions going and you put some points on the board, things start to snowball in the right direction, like they always have for us," Burris said. "Thankfully, we were able to get that going against Saskatchewan."

Against the visiting Eskimos tomorrow, Burris and Co. face a defence that's been heavily revamped since the rivals clashed on Labour Day and in the Labour Day Replay.

TODD.SAELHOF@SUNMEDIA.CA


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