CALGARY - The moment Paul McCallum’s miraculous 53-yard game-winning field goal went over the bar Saturday night, the Calgary Stampeders’ season took a disturbing turn.
Instead of holding a two-game lead on the B.C. Lions in the standings, the Stamps are now looking for some help if they want first in the West Division.
“This is where the season really starts. The last four games going into the playoffs,” Stamps quarterback Henry Burris said following the 33-31 loss in Vancouver.
“Our team can rebound. You won’t see any give-up from us.”
The Stamps (8-6) could actually drop to third place if the Edmonton Eskimos (7-6) beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders Monday.
By losing to the Lions (8-6) Saturday, the Stamps have dropped the season series with both B.C. and Edmonton.
And now, the Stamps don’t play either team in the final month, so it will be up to others to give Calgary a chance to take back the pole position.
The Eskimos and Lions face each other in Week 18, so at least one of those teams will have a loss the rest of the way.
There is some good news. The Stamps enter a soft spot on their schedule with a meeting Friday in Toronto against the last-place Argonauts, who should be worn out because they play Monday in Montreal.
The following week, the Stamps get the Riders again — a team they just whipped 40-3 last week.
But that win is Calgary’s only one in the past four games.
If the Stamps continue the sloppy play they displayed Saturday night, the run will be a short one no matter where the playoffs start.
On the opening play, Burris was under siege, losing the ball when Keron Williams came free off the right side and drilled him. In the fourth quarter, Burris simply lost the handle on the ball after pulling the pigskin from running back Jon Cornish and putting it on the turf.
For the fourth straight game and fifth time in six starts, Burris threw for fewer than 200 yards (193), although he did go 15-of-19. Most of that yardage came on an 81-yard TD strike to Landan Talley, showing that the Stamps offence isn’t pushing the ball downfield enough.
Still, the biggest problem is the untimely turnovers.
“Even spotting them to that lead, we had the fight in us to keep going,” Burris said about getting down 14-0 before crawling back and taking a fourth-quarter lead.
“We know what we’re capable of. When we’re playing our type of football, we’re the best team in this league. We may have had our sloppy moments, but they played a great game.”
The problems don’t end with the offence.
The Stampeders defence shut down the awful Riders a week ago by creating four turnovers. They didn’t get a single turnover against the Lions offence, and when they needed a stop desperately to close it out, quarterback Travis Lulay was able to scramble around and find receiver Arland Bruce for a 17-yard gain on a third-and-10 with 14 seconds left.
Although the Stamps had decent pressure on Lulay throughout, the mobile pivot was able to escape and find his receivers when he needed to on crucial plays.
Still, the Stamps had the ball in their hands during the final minutes and couldn’t move the sticks to finish off a win.
“We have to milk that clock,” Burris said. “We gave them a chance to get back in field-goal range.
“As an offence, we need be able to run out the clock, and we didn’t do it.”