EDMONTON — Selfish plays. Too many players getting caught out of position. Bad penalties.
The Edmonton Elks’ (2-10) defensive players are still seething about Monday’s 35-31 loss to the Calgary Stampeder where they blew a 15-point fourth-quarter lead.
But the Elks hope the tables will turn when the Stamps (4-8) visit Commonwealth Stadium Saturday.
“We take the onus on ourselves, knowing that we pretty much lost the game in the fourth quarter,” veteran defensive back Ed Gainey said. “The mood? As a defensive unit, we’re pissed. We just want to come out here this weekend and prove that we can play four quarters of football and we can make plays when they present themselves.”
Gainey said the Elks’ defenders can’t repeat the mistakes that allowed Stamps quarterback Jake Maier to rack up most of his 315 yards passing in the fourth quarter. The Elks didn’t allow a major in the first three quarters, and then gave up three in the final 15 minutes.
“It was a combination of guys trying to be the superhero, to make the superhero play, and not doing their job," said Gainey. "We didn’t make the routine plays. We were on the bad end of a couple of pass interference calls. It’s professional football, after doing what you can through the first three quarters, eventually they are going to find some windows, find some creases.”
Elks lineman Jake Ceresna agreed with his teammates assessment.
“It was us just shooting ourselves in the foot, and not doing our job, not being in the places we’re supposed to be at, collectively as a defensive unit.” he said. “We’ve just got to be better. It’s tough having a loss like that, when it’s on the defence.”
But there are positives for an Elks team that started the season 0-9, and has made great strides since Tre Ford took over as the starting quarterback.
As heartbreaking as the loss was, Ceresna said there are take-aways that can carry over into Saturday.
“I mean, we played three great quarters of football, right? We were playing well for the majority of the game, it’s just about finishing the game. We’re going to make adjustments, they’re going to make adjustments, we just have to make sure we play our game and, at the end of the day, we come out with the victory.”
Elks general manager and head coach Chris Jones said that Maier’s ability to scramble away from pressure was one the keys to the Stamps comeback, and that the Elks have to be more disciplined in the rematch.
“When you allow the quarterback outside contain, and he extends plays by 1.5 to 2.5 seconds, and they complete footballs, I would agree (the team made mistakes). We had some missed assignments … those are basic things we’ve been working on since day one."
What the Elks hope holds over from Labour Day is a running game the Stamps couldn’t contain. The Elks churned out 239 yards on the ground, 137 of them thanks to Ford's scrambling ability.
And, the Stamps will need to piece together its secondary after injuries to Shaquille Richardson and Titus Wall, who are both out for the rematch.
Going into the weekend, the Stamps are 4-8, while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are 4-7 and the Ottawa Redblacks sit at 3-8. If the Stamps complete a two-game sweep of the Elks, they’ll be right in the mix to pip both of those Eastern teams in the battle for the playoffs. A fourth-place team in the West can take a crossover spot in the East if its good enough for a third-place spot there.
“The team believes that, 'hey, we can win any game,'” said Stamps coach Dave Dickenson. “When you do that a couple of times in a row, that’s when you get some momentum and you can carry it forward.
“If we can put two or three wins in a row together, then you start growing something. I think you just plant the seed every now and then. Right now, we haven’t really been able to water that seed. We really haven’t taken a second step at all this year.”
This weekend, the Stamps get that chance.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2023.
Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press