Stamps must find finish

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:27 AM ET

CALGARY - Anytime there's a quarterback controversy, the offence will be under a microscope.

But let's not forget the Calgary Stampeders' defensive unit has had the opportunity to protect a late lead in back-to-back games, failing to finish the job both times.

Thanks in part to blown saves against the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts, the Stamps are now on a two-game slide and have tumbled into third spot in the CFL's West Division standings.

"It doesn't need to be said, but it's something that's always said. It's been said since Day 1 -- finish," said Stamps linebacker and defensive co-captain Juwan Simpson. "Whether it's finish a play, finish a quarter, finish a game, it's all about finishing. It's something that's been said and it something that you don't want to keep repeating, but I'm sure it'll be a word that's used around here frequently over the next few weeks -- finish. We've played a lot of great ball, sparingly, but we just need to put it together and -- once again -- finish."

Simpson, speaking after Tuesday's sunny practice session at McMahon Stadium, paused for a moment to ponder his statement.

"That's what, nine finishes in 40 seconds?" he asked with a grin.

It's amazing what can happen in 40 seconds.

With two-thirds of a minute left on the clock two weeks ago at B.C. Place Stadium, the Stamps were clinging to a one-point lead and needed to stop the Lions offence to take sole possession of top spot in the division standings.

That is, until Lions quarterback Travis Lulay hooked up with receiver Arland Bruce for a 17-yard gain and a key third-down conversion, leaving just enough time for kicker Paul McCallum to nail a 53-yard field goal at the buzzer.

Lions 33, Stamps 31.

During their annual visit to Rogers Centre six days later, the Stamps once again had a one-point lead with 40 seconds to go, but they surrendered three first downs -- including two on penalty flags -- and allowed the hosts to march into position for Noel Prefontaine's last-second game-winner from 18 yards out.

Argos 31, Stamps 29.

"That's what you sign up for -- you want to be on the field in tough situations. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to close the games out," Simpson said. "I think each guy, at the end of the day, they have pride and they have to take it on themselves -- each and everybody -- to come together in those closing minutes and do it. There's frustration. Two weeks in a row, it's tough."

There's been plenty of news at McMahon Stadium in the past couple of days, most notably with Drew Tate installed as the starting quarterback for Friday's meeting with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

While Henry Burris becomes Calgary's backup signal-caller, all-time franchise rushing leader Joffrey Reynolds will return to the lineup after three games as a healthy scratch.

There'll be changes on the defensive side of the ball, too, with coverage linebacker Brandon Isaac ready to return from a leg injury and linebacker Sean Ware (University of New Hampshire) preparing for his first appearance in Red & White.

Robert McCune will likely man the middle, with Simpson sliding over to a different linebacker spot.

The Stamps are hoping the end result also changes against the Riders.

"That left a nasty taste in our mouth, but we can't dwell on the past. We have to look forward to these next three games," said Stamps halfback Brandon Smith. "We have to put it behind us. We went over it, we figured out our mistakes and we have to correct those errors in the future."

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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