REGINA - Five weeks ago Saskatchewan went into Calgary riding a three-game win streak only to squander a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead en route to a tough overtime loss.
The Roughriders haven't been the same team since.
"If you want to look at the big picture, that was the game that started off our four-game losing streak," quarterback Darian Durant said Friday as the Riders (3-4) prepared to meet the Stampeders (3-4) on Saturday afternoon at Mosaic Stadium.
"We wouldn't be standing here talking about the things that we are if that game had turned out differently."
The Riders' dramatic reversal of fortune was the predominant topic of conversation, the recurring theme being that if a loss to the Stamps is what sent the team into a tailspin, then perhaps a victory over the Stamps would pull Saskatchewan out of it.
"Yeah, you could say that was the game," said defensive lineman Brent Hawkins, who plays on a defence that has struggled at holding leads late in the game. "The mentality we have to have in the fourth quarter is to finish off."
Or, as linebacker Tyron Brackenridge put it: "Once we've got them down, we've got to keep them down. We have to keep pounding."
Slotback Weston Dressler, who could have won the game in Calgary but uncharacteristically dropped a pass from Durant in the end zone, echoed that sentiment. The solution to the problem, he said, is "putting four quarters together and doing it all at the same time," meaning not only on defence, but also on offence and special teams.
"But you can't really dwell on it," Dressler added. "It's such a long season."
Which is pretty much the sermon Corey Chamblin has preached to his players in recent weeks.
"The losses we've had have probably given this team a lot of good learning experiences," said Chamblin, taking an optimistic view of a situation that could easily discourage a rookie head coach.
"He's broken it down to just doing your job. We need more production, basically," said Hawkins. " I don't think anybody's down too much."
As a veteran quarterback and a team leader, that's the message Durant is echoing. The Riders, he says, have merely encountered some rough spots in a CFL campaign that is more marathon than sprint.
"I always say, week in and week out, it's going to be a long season. We're a good team. If we stick together, we're going to do some good things."
Durant finds solace in the fact that the Riders have done a number of good things, even during the frustrating losing streak. Except for last weekend's 24-5 loss to the red-hot B.C. Lions (5-2) in Vancouver, the Riders have not been blown out. They lost 41-38 to the Stamps, 35-34 to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and 28-20 to the Edmonton Eskimos.
"We had three out those four games pretty much wrapped up," Durant said. "They made plays, and we didn't."
Harkening back to the Lions game, he added: "We had one bad game as an offence and that's (the way) it is."
The offence is determined to score as many points as necessary to win, and the defence is concentrating on holding leads in the late going.
"Our defence is up to the challenge," said linebacker Daren Stone. "We've had a good week in practice."