Argonauts' pass defence best in the league

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:01 PM ET

It's enough to leave a strong-armed quarterback feeling a little blue.

Make that Double Blue, in light of the Calgary Stampeders' opponent tonight at McMahon Stadium (5 p.m.).

The Stamps and QB Henry Burris are facing the CFL's stingiest pass defence in the Toronto Argos, a foe that will test the Calgary pivot's patience.

The Argos have allowed the fewest points, have fielded the stingiest pass defence and have posted the most interceptions (24) this season. That focus on shutting down the aerial attack also leaves the Argos vulnerable up front with the second-worst run defence in the league, a weak link the Stamps expect to exploit.

Burris will be forced to focus on short passes to slotbacks Nik Lewis and Jeremaine Copeland, while pounding away with league-leading running back Joffrey Reynolds.

"I think my patience has already been tested but this is definitely a game of patience (tonight)," said Burris, second in the CFL in passing yards.

"They're not going to give up anything over the top. We tried to hit the home run ball too much early (this season) but now we have a sense of reality that teams aren't giving that up now.

"They're a great defence, pattern-read very well and take their chances by jumping routes and getting interceptions. We need to be smart, take our time and read off those guys.

"We're going to pound Joffrey up front because they do run that three-man front with a bunch of smaller guys behind there. We need to take advantage of that.

"Most of their interceptions come when people try to throw over the top ... You have to take the underneath stuff and force them to stop the run and stop the underneath stuff by coming down and not playing 12 to 14 yards off the receivers and give up that cushion."

The Argos arrived amid a media frenzy around tailback Ricky Williams, returning to the lineup after two months off due to a broken arm. But the suspended NFL star's return, argues quarterback Damon Allen, won't trigger a run-at-all-costs mentality.

"We have to just run our offence," pro football's all-time leading passer said after yesterday's walk-through.

"He has been practising all week, so we know what kind of shape he's in. For us, it's based on what the Stampeders are willing to give us. That's how you play offence, not beat your head against the wall and, if they're playing a run defence, just trying to run it down their throats. We have to be smart about what we do offensively and take advantage of what they like to do on defence.

"It's very easy as long as we know what we're doing and we go out and execute each play ... whether Ricky gets five balls or 25 balls, the bottom line is we want to win."

Williams' return to the roster has been a hot topic in the Stampeders locker-room. Head coach Tom Higgins said preventing Williams from getting on a roll while limiting their QB's scrambling abilities will be keys to shutting down the Argos offence. Allen, don't forget, who sits third all-time in CFL rushing with nearly 12,000 yards.

"He can be a weapon and we don't want to allow him the opportunity to get started," Higgins said. "The biggest challenge is there is a scrambling quarterback back there.

"We're going to try to pressure the quarterback, cancel the gaps and it doesn't matter who they try to hand the football to, we don't want to give him the opportunity to get started."


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