NEWS
10/12/2011 06:26 EDT | Updated 12/12/2011 05:12 EST

Calgary Stampeders now in a tight race to get a playoff game at home

CALGARY - Henry Burris hopes he got the attention of the Stampeders offence.

Dissatisfied with execution, Calgary's quarterback called an impromptu on-field meeting of the offence at the end of a practice earlier this week.

"At some point, I felt I had to say something," Burris said Wednesday. "There's no better time than right now because these last four games, we only have a month of football to go.

"I had to say what I had to say because, right now, I am the elder statesman on this team and a lot of guys don't understand what we're about to go into."

What Calgary is about to go into is a neck-and-neck race for first place in the CFL's West Division with the Edmonton Eskimos and B.C. Lions. The three clubs are tied 8-6, but Edmonton and B.C. won their season series against Calgary and rank ahead of the Stamps in the event of a tie.

Calgary faces two floundering clubs in their next two games. The Stampeders head to Toronto to meet the Argonauts (3-11) on Friday before hosting Saskatchewan (4-10) on Oct. 21. Calgary then travels to Montreal before concluding the regular season at home versus Winnipeg.

Burris thought his post-practice sermon Tuesday had an impact in Calgary's final rehearsal at home before boarding the plane for Toronto.

"We had a very polished practice today," he said. "Guys were making the right adjustments. We were making the right calls. Truly, you won't know until we get this thing going on game day."

Calgary fell from first to third in the West with a heartbreaking 33-31 loss to the Lions on Saturday, but still backed into a playoff spot when Edmonton beat Saskatchewan on Monday.

Going 2-4 in their last six games hasn't helped Calgary's aspirations of hosting a playoff game. The top team in the West Division at the end of the regular season earns a bye and the division final at home after the runner-up hosts the third-place team in the semifinal.

"We don't look at it as we dropped to third," Burris said. "Right now it's a race between three teams with the same record. If we can win out, we'll give ourselves the best chance to be in second, if not first place."

Veteran slotback Ken-Yon Rambo won't play for a second straight game because of a nagging Achilles' injury. The status of the other starting slotback, Nik Lewis, is up in the air.

Calgary's leading receiver missed a second day of practice Wednesday with what the Stampeders say is the flu. Defensive end Charleston Hughes will also be scratched Friday because of a leg injury.

Robert McCune, coming off knee surgery that sidelined him four straight games, will slide in for Hughes. Landan Talley, who scored a touchdown against B.C., will start again in place of Rambo. Talley, a 24-year-old out of Lambuth University, has amassed 166 yards and two touchdowns on just eight catches this season.

"It's very tough because you never know when you're going to go, when you're going to get that call," Talley said. "When that time comes and you get your opportunity, you've got to go out and perform. That's what they want me to do and that's my goal, for me to stay around."

Talley felt the timing of Burris's lecture Tuesday was right.

"Hank came to us how he usually does, as a leader, to point out we as an offensive unit, we need to step up," he said. "It's getting around that time, playoff time, and it's time for us to step up.

After taking a 31-30 lead against B.C., Calgary wasn't able to kill the clock when they got possession with just over two minutes remaining in the game. The Stampeders also failed on a two-point convert attempt following Larry Taylor's touchdown return on a missed field goal gave them the lead.

But the defence must also shoulder some responsibility. With 14 seconds left, the backfield left Arland Bruce uncovered on a Lions third-and-10. Lions QB Travis Lulay connected on a 17-yard pass, which put B.C. in range for kicker Paul McCallum's 53-yard winner on the last play of the game.

"The third-and-10 is a heartbreaker at the end of the game," Calgary head coach John Hufnagel said. "We were a little bit undisciplined in our coverage. We came out of our zone and Lulay found the opening in that zone.

"We need to be able to make that play if the defence is on the field. If the special teams are on the field, we need to make that play. Whatever phase of the game is on the field at the end, we've got to make the plays to win the game."