Okay, boys and girls, how are we going to get this done?
This is a formidable team we're facing, a team with no obvious weaknesses, featuring a QB who has proven to be our bane over the past few years and a defense run by our ex-coordinator, who knows Calvillo inside and out.
First-down production any which way. Calgary's whole M.O. on defense is to stuff the run on first down, then lock into press coverage on second and long. We can't play into their hands by doing the same thing on first down. Besides handing the ball to Cobourne, I would like to see a few hitch screens (to Richardson or Watkins), which would help to blunt the edge of that pressure defense. Slant routes could also be helpful, allowing Calvillo to find receivers quickly in the middle of the field, which should be vacated with the Calgary linebackers either blitzing or playing the run. We have to mix it up.
Draw plays on second and long. As many of us know, Chris Jones loves to send three-man pressure and drop everyone into coverage on second and long. One way to beat this formation is to run the draw play to Cobourne. With everyone in pass coverage, the middle of the field should be vacated (nobody is going to put a QB spy on Calvillo! ). As Glen Suitor pointed out yesterday, one weakness with press coverage is that if you surprise them with a run, the defenders already have their bodies turned away from the play, and aren't in a good position to come back and help out on run support.
Don't forget about the run. I know our short-passing game is almost a running game on its own, but it doesn't replace an effective ground game out of the backfield. We simply can't let the Stamps pin their ears back and come after Calvillo. We have to force them to respect the run. It's not going to be easy. If we can bounce a few successful runs to the outside, it will take the edge off the pass rush.
Test that secondary deep. If Calgary figures out that we're only going to dink and dunk, they will smother our receivers all day long and stop worrying about being beaten over top. We have to take our shots down field, which brings me to...
No dropped balls. We had at least two big drops yesterday that fortunately didn't come back to haunt us. Calgary is a better team than Edmonton and will make us pay if our receivers don't focus. The chance to burn a team for a big play doesn't come around very often; when it happens, the receiver has to secure the football.
Utilize all our weapons. Richardson is no longer a well-kept secret. Calgary will do their best to shut him down, which is where Cahoon, Watkins, Cobourne (as a receiver), and even Bratton need to capitalize.
Fullback bailout. Teams tend to forget about the fullback on pass plays. Why not use Carter on screen plays to defuse blitz pressure?
Stop the run. Our run D has been excellent all season long, and it can't stop now. We're facing the best tailback in the league. If we can hold Reynolds in check, Burris becomes one-dimensional, which increases our chances of stopping Calgary's offense.
Stick with your assignments, make your tackles. It all comes down to discipline. Players have to stay in their gaps, avoid freelancing, read plays correctly, and then wrap up on the tackle. No arm-tackling or leaving your feet to make a hot-dog play. Get two hands on the player, wrap him up, and don't let go. If you see a teammate tackling, swarm to the ball.
Mix up pressure packages. Burris is a veteran and a master at reading coverage. If you give him the same look on a certain down or in a certain situation, he'll find the weak spot in the scheme and carve you up. The way to force turnovers is to make Burris think something is there when it really isn't. This will be Burke's greatest test as a defensive coordinator, particularly given the quality of Calgary's receiving corps (Lewis, Rambo, Copeland, Ralph, Thelwell).
Spy on Henry. The last time we played Calgary, Burris burned us repeatedly by calling his own number on second and long and running up the middle for big gains because we'd vacated the middle of the field. That has to stop. Reggie Hunt used to be an excellent QB spy in Saskatchewan. This is what he should be doing on any second and long situation, either to stuff Burris on a QB draw or to zone-cover crossing routes.
Start the presses. If we give guys like Lewis, Rambo, and Copeland open releases into the middle of the field, we're going to get embarrassed. We have GOT to get up on the line of scrimmage and jam the receivers at least some of the time.
Trench warfare. Our D-line rose to the occasion yesterday. Next week, they'll face a much stiffer test. Calgary's O-line is the best in the league besides ours. Somehow, some way, they have got to get pressure on Burris. They don't necessarily have to sack him a bunch, but they do have to disrupt his timing and force him to throw before he wants to.
No big plays. One blocked punt for a TD, one punt returned for a TD. Unacceptable. Larry Taylor deserves credit for saving our bacon, but he is not going to break off two punt-return TDs against Calgary. Scott Squires, this is your job on the line. Everyone has to be clear on their assignments, guys have to stay in their coverage lanes and not get washed to the side, and blockers have to be disciplined. We can't afford to give away points on special teams. The Stampeders took one of the best return men in the league in Ian Smart and neutered him for the whole game. Taylor is not going to have the room to maneuver that he did against Edmonton.