Armstrong happy with big haul against Pirates Wide receiver collects two TD passes in win

September 24, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The catches are tougher to come by this season for Chris Armstrong, and the breakout games come less often.

But when the Baltimore Stallions waged a war of attrition at receiver last night, their big-play man helped deliver a wild 42-32 victory over the Shreveport Pirates at Memorial Stadium.

Armstrong caught two touchdown passes in the second quarter and, with 105 yards on five catches, producing his third straight 100-yard receiving effort.

It was significant on a night the Stallions lost two receivers -- Reggie Perry and Robert Clark -- to injuries and weathered a 29-point fourth-quarter Shreveport rally. Perry, with a sprained right knee, is expected to miss six weeks.

"They were concerned with our running game and put a lot of people in the box [crowding the line of scrimmage]," Armstrong said of Shreveport's defense. "We worked on that all week. When Tracy [Ham] gets time to throw, he's a pretty good quarterback."

Ham threw scoring passes of 19 and 42 yards to Armstrong in the second quarter when Baltimore opened a 22-3 halftime lead.

Both passes came against a safety blitz and both victimized defensive halfback Bobby Evans.

But the Stallions made their big move in the passing game after their first two offensive series. That's when they moved Armstrong from wide receiver to slotback, where he earned All-East Division honors a year ago.

The past three weeks, in fact, the Stallions have used Armstrong at wide receiver and in the slot.

"He was drawing a lot of double coverage [at slotback]," said offensive coordinator Steve Buratto. "It's a lot more difficult to double cover a wide receiver."

Until that strategic move in a Sept. 9 game against Birmingham, Armstrong had not had a 100-yard game this season. Now he has had three in a row.

Last night, Armstrong opened at wide receiver because Shannon Culver (neck) was hurt and Toby Cates was new to the system. But Buratto was quick to move him inside. "It was obvious it would be a good matchup [against Evans] inside," he said.

The double coverage had effectively put a muzzle on Armstrong. A year ago, he had 20 touchdown catches -- including two in the postseason -- and five multi-touchdown games.

This season he has nine touchdown catches and only four in his past nine games. Armstrong, 28, said the numbers are deceiving.

"They're just numbers; you can't live on what you did last year," he said.

"Defenses did not let me do what I did last year. As a receiver, I tried not to get frustrated. I'm in a lot of different places in a lot of different looks."

Not that Armstrong wants all the passes to come his way.

He was the first man to congratulate rookie Mark Orlando when the former Towson State standout pulled down a 30-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

"I want Shannon and Clark and Reggie and Mark to catch the ball," Armstrong said. "That's what makes Calgary so tough. When you double [Allen] Pitts, [Dave] Sapunjis kills you."

Armstrong's big night probably should have produced a third touchdown catch. He made an apparent catch diving in the end zone in the third quarter -- beating Evans again -- but it was waved off as incomplete.

NOTE: In their unending quest to find a permanent replacement for free safety Lester Smith -- out for the season since breaking his right foot Aug. 2 against Edmonton -- the Stallions have signed Chris Johnson to a practice-roster contract. He was among the final cuts in the Minnesota Vikings' camp.

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