Red & White wary of aerial attack

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:05 PM ET

The last time they blew into Regina, the Calgary Stampeders were blown away with deep passes.

Now the Stamps face the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium without arguably their best defensive player.

Middle linebacker Juwan Simpson’s sore knee won’t allow him to play Sunday when the Stamps face the Riders in a crucial first-place showdown.

Coming off a meeting a month ago where Darian Durant threw for 500 yards, the Stamps must reload without their leader in tackles, sacks and special-team tackles.

“Without a doubt, Juwan has done an extremely nice job this year,” said Stamps defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones.

“That’s what they pay me and my coaches to do, have people prepared for situations like this. I feel confident we have in the people going over there to play this weekend.”

Robert McCune will pick up the majority of slack left by Simpson, who has started every game this season in the middle after two years as a defensive end.

Although the Stamps are making changes to their front seven, it’s the same secondary lining up that conceded some huge plays to the Riders during a 43-37 loss in Regina Sept. 17.

Jones’ defence is an all-or-nothing group. They lead the CFL in fewest yards allowed in 328.1 per game, and have given up the fewest points, yet opponents have 31 passes of 30-plus yards against them, most of any team.

When Durant connected with Andy Fantuz and Weston Dressler on 60- and 77-yard TDs, both times Milt Collins and Brandon Smith were close to getting a hand on it.

An inch or two, and the result would be different.

“They did a real nice job then,” Jones said. “Darian made some unbelievable throws.

“We cut two balls, and if we pick those off we’re not having this conversation. Here at home, they tried to do the same thing and we had two picks.

“That’s the defence we play. That’s how we’re going to continue to play. We live by the sword and die by the sword. We believe in it. You can’t change midstream. Good luck to them if they try to hit us deep.”

When the Stamps beat the Riders 40-20 back in July at McMahon Stadium, the plays went Calgary’s way instead.

Collins, who has the unenviable job of handling Fantuz, managed a couple of knockdowns and picked off a late pass in that victory.

Even at the start of the last trip to Regina, Collins had a pick six on the first drive. Then it fell apart.

“I was in the right place at the right time to make some plays,” Collins said. “What I want from this next game is to finish it out and not do what happened last game.

“I put that to the back of my head but I’m still thinking about how that happened to me. I will come out this game and play all four quarters, five if I need to.”

Defensive backs have to forget or outings like that one a month ago would make them sleepless at night.

That game stands out to Smith, who went for the ball on Dressler’s long TD, and can’t be faulted for trying.

“Big risk for big rewards. You have to take those chances,” Smith said.

“Even now, as I think about that play, I still see the ball coming down. I wish I could judge it a bit better and make one or two more steps before jumping for it.

“Miracle plays happen for them when the Stamps play them. I guess it’s because it’s a rivalry and everybody’s energy is up. That’s why people get excited for these games because big plays happen.

“We can’t have any explosions. If we limit them, the game turns into our favour.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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