Zeroes to heroes.
The Calgary Stampeders were thankful Dwight Anderson and Brandon Browner made the transition in Saturday’s 23-20 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The CFL game at McMahon Stadium was close only because of two defensive gaffes. But guilty parties redeemed themselves in the end.
Early in the second quarter, with the score 10-0 for the Stampeders, Bombers running back Fred Reid broke a 46-yard run to put the visitors on the board. On that play, Anderson was perfectly blocked by Brock Ralph at the line, and Reid went through.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Stamps ahead 20-11, Terrence Edwards took advantage of broken coverage by Milt Collins and Browner for a 61-yard touchdown.
“It was a communication thing,” Browner explained. “(Collins) came off his guy when he should have stayed on his guy or called switch. They got us, saw me driving the screen and Milt drove the screen with me. It happens.
“What you’ve got to do is put those things behind you, especially when there’s time on the clock. You have to buckle down.”
That’s exactly what the defensive backs — and the rest of their defence brethren — did when it mattered most.
While the Stamps offence sputtered down the stretch, the Bombers had a pair of chances in the inside the three-minute warning to erase a five-point deficit.
Browner’s knockdown on a second-and-long forced the Blue Bombers to punt the ball away from their own 15-yard line with 2:32 remaining.
Following a two-and-out by the hosts, the Blue Bombers drove all the way to the Stampeders’ 30-yard line with
60 seconds remaining.
The first pass was incomplete. The second was knocked down by linebacker Malik Jackson.
Third down ended with a knockdown by Anderson in the endzone, which sealed the game.
“That’s a testament to the work we put in,” said Browner, who enjoyed a day off Monday along with the rest of the Stampeders. “We emphasize man-coverage — your man, your play, so if your man gets the ball, you’ve got to make that play. That’s what guys did.”
Shutting the door is one thing. Sealing a victory by snuffing three plays from the 30-yard line when it’s endzone or bust for the opposition, that’s at another level.
“The CFL is a passing league, so if you’re on the 30 going in, that’s almost guaranteed points,” Anderson said. “It’s a real cheerful feeling on the defensive side to know you can stop a team like we did in those three plays.”
What remains to be seen is whether the Stamps defenders start receiving their due.
The Stamps are tied with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Montreal Alouettes atop the league with a 4-1 record, and the biggest reason is the team’s defence.
Calgary has been the league’s stingiest crew having surrendered an average of
21 points per game and is
No. 2 for offensive yards against.
But it remains a relatively no-name bunch.
Browner is the biggest name outside of Calgary, because the club has no individuals noted for their quarterback sacks, interceptions or tackle numbers.
Instead, it’s a crew which uses a well-rounded team game.
“It’s going back to our championship year (2008),” Anderson said. “We had a No.-1 defence — it wasn’t a one-man show. Whoever made the play, that was great. There weren’t guys trying to pad their stats — just playing for each other — and
I think we’ve got back to that, and you can see it on the field.”
The defensive line has done a masterful job, especially in the win over the Riders. The secondary is led by Browner and Anderson.
The linebackers — Jackson, Juwan Simpson and the versatile Keon Raymond — have solidified the defence.
“We probably don’t get a lot of credit, but at the end of the day, it’s about winning,” Browner said. “I think that’s what most of these guys want, to win more than credit. As long as we win football games, we’re alright.”