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Saskatchewan Roughriders' defence limps into bye week after 37-10 loss to Calgary Stampeders

Eric Rogers, 4, of the Calgary Stampeders catches a touchdown pass against the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Ed Gainey on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium.
Eric Rogers, 4, of the Calgary Stampeders catches a touchdown pass against the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Ed Gainey on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium.
REGINA, Sask. —

One offensive series by the Calgary Stampeders summed up the poor performance of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defence.

The Riders had Calgary backed up to its two-yard line during Saturday’s third quarter after a 58-yard Jon Ryan punt and a Calgary holding penalty on the return.

Despite being outplayed for the most of the CFL game, the Riders trailed 15-10 and, with a defensive stop, may have been in position to mount a comeback.

Five plays and 108 yards later, the Stampeders were celebrating a 19-yard touchdown catch by Eric Rogers. Calgary ended up posting a 37-10 victory over the host Roughriders.

The Stampeders dug themselves out of the hole thanks in part to a 40-yard pass-interference penalty assessed to cornerback Solomon Means that moved the ball to Calgary’s 42-yard line.

Stampeders quarterback Nick Arbuckle, making his first CFL start, kept moving the ball as Calgary emerged from the drive with a 22-10 third-quarter lead.

“We just didn’t put our foot down,” said veteran defensive back Ed Gainey , who was beaten by Rogers for the touchdown.

“I told the defence that we couldn’t let them out and we had to keep that field position for the rest of the game. On the first play they went deep and I can’t fault them (for that).”

It has been a tough season for Saskatchewan’s vaunted defence, which hasn’t played to the standard that was established in 2018.

The 2018 defence was aggressive, opportunistic, relentless and physical while carrying Saskatchewan to a 12-6 record and second place in the West Division.

The 2019 defensive unit has yet to consistently exhibit those traits. It has only two interceptions — both in a 32-7 victory over the lowly Toronto Argonauts on July 1 — and hasn’t been the physical force it was, despite Charleston Hughes leading the CFL with five sacks.

“I don’t think we as a man across the board can say we did everything we could to try and win this game,” Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said . “We came out a little flat.

“We weren’t very physical and we didn’t sprint to the football like we should on defence. We can control all of those and it doesn’t have anything to do with talent.”

Missed tackles were among the issues Saturday.

“We have to get better at tackling,” Dickenson said. “We’ll drill it and emphasize it. We were shooting too low and Calgary has some big, strong guys who were running through a lot of arm tackles.”

Gainey is also concerned about the defence’s performance through the Riders’ first four games. The Riders have a 1-3 record and are tied for fourth with the B.C. Lions in the five-team West.

“We’re not really playing like the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defence,” Gainey said. “The first couple of games we’ve given up so many points. We had flashes last week against Toronto, but we have a lot of work to do.

“Guys have to be more accountable to themselves. This is a professional league and you’re getting paid to play football and to get your job done.”

The Roughriders, who are now on a bye week, are to return to action July 20 against the visiting Lions. Dickenson said he encouraged the players to enjoy the bye week, despite Saturday’s result.

“We have plenty of time to prepare for B.C.,” Dickenson said. “I told them they would get a full seven days off whether we won four in a row or lost four in a row and I want to stay consistent with that. I want them to recharge, see their families, and come back ready to go.”

mmccormick@postmedia.com

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