It didn't take long for the Baltimore Stallions to seize control of last night's game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- in fact, it was exactly the same amount of time it took rush end Elfrid Payton to create havoc.
Bulling in from the right side, Payton tackled Winnipeg running back Mike Oliphant for a 3-yard loss on the Blue Bombers' opening series, then pounced on quarterback Sammy Garza, causing a fumble that the Stallions' O. J. Brigance returned 10 yards.
One series, two big plays. Payton had set the tone for Baltimore's defensive effort, which led to a 43-7 victory at Memorial Stadium. And he had forced Garza to seek an alternate method of beating the heat.
For much of the first half, Garza used a short drop and quick release to either sideline or up the middle. Hold the ball too long, and Payton might be draped on his back.
Later in the first quarter, Payton chased Garza to the sideline and forced an incompletion, then came up with his second sack after Garza had dodged nose tackle Jearld Baylis.
By game's end, Payton had three sacks, including one in the fourth quarter against backup Reggie Slack, and two tackles. Most of his damage was done early, when it mattered most in sloppy conditions.
"That's what we had planned, to come out and jump on them real early so they wouldn't get any confidence," he said. "That forced fumble was a big play because right after that, we got a touchdown."
Last night was typical of Payton's season. He was named the CFL's lineman of the week for his performance in the season's second game, against San Antonio. He had three sacks and five hurries, and returned a fumble 36 yards. Twice, he has been runner up for the honor, including last week in the rematch with San Antonio, when he had four tackles and one sack.
tTC Armed with this knowledge, the Blue Bombers tried just about everything to contain the man known by his teammates as "Swack." And that disrupted their offense even more.
"They started sprinting away from me and cutting me, trying to get me to get my hands down," said Payton, who came in tied for the league lead in sacks with four, and was second in fumble recoveries with three.
"After that first half, they were doing all kinds of stuff, and I couldn't even get close. But I was hurting them by making them change what they really wanted to do, so that was fine for the team."
Payton joined the Stallions last year after playing five games for the Shreveport Pirates. Before his arrival, Baltimore's defense gave up an average of 400 yards a game. With Payton, it surrendered 309.
Immediate impact. Just like last night.
"The big thing for me this year was training camp. That helped me out a lot. From Day One, it was a good start," he said.
Said coach Don Matthews: "We got some big-time rushes from Payton tonight."
Payton wasn't the only dominant force on the line, of course. One man won't hold a team to seven points.
Grant Carter, who lines up at the other end position, had two pass deflections, a fumble recovery and a sack. Baylis and Robert Presbury each had three tackles.