Continuing with the CFL Talking Points series, Last Word On Sports CFL writer Thomas Gunther is on the one game injured reserve list but Kelly Bale is back with the the latest game breakdown. The Edmonton Eskimos needed a win to keep a home playoff birth alive in the West Division. The struggling Saskatchewan Roughriders, just like last time, simply needed a win. After a huge pressure-cooker win by the Riders 26-23, Kelly addresses the big questions raised by the game as well as his overall impression of each team. For last week’s recap, you can click here. Let’s get started with the key takeaways in the CFL Week 13 Talking Points.
CFL Week 13 Talking Points
1) What happened to the Eskimos effort to get off to a fast start?
Kelly Bale: The Edmonton Eskimos have been inconsistent on offence and have sputtered at critical times. Apart from two big plays, that tendency continued today and it started early. The Eskimos didn’t see the red zone until well into the second quarter and were held to field goals. Scoring three points in the first quarter wasn’t the fast start they were looking for. The defence spent an uncomfortable amount of time on the field making it difficult to stop the Saskatchewan Roughriders from at least keeping pace.
2) Which unit stood out most on the Eskimos?
Just like in week ten, it appeared the offence stood out the most for Edmonton. Shakir Bell didn’t have a great game but did pick up some critical yards. The reality is that all three phases of the game were equally mediocre for the Eskimos. The offence at least threatened the Riders at times, particularly the drive that secured their final field goal. It must have been quite pleasing for Saskatchewan fans to watch the patchwork Rider offensive line finally handle the Eskimos blitz.
3) Edmonton has now participated in four overtime games. What does that say about the Team?
On the surface, overtime games can reflect a team in a positive or negative fashion. In the case of the Eskimos it’s a bit of both. The defence has given up big plays down the stretch that have allowed teams to catch up. The offence has failed to put teams away. Another way to see it is that the Eskimos coming back to force overtime despite falling a bit behind. The team has proven inconsistent and unable to put teams away this season. However, the resilience it takes to hold off the Riders and force overtime shows the Esks are still gritty and displaying good awareness.
Mike Reilly would have been the easy candidate for tonight’s top performer, but the award goes elsewhere. The Eskimos had a great performance from Adarius Bowman, despite a great shadow effort from the Riders to deny the receiver yards. Bowman was the most statistically decorated man of the match and played at the level most are accustomed to seeing him at. Bowman is having an all-star year and no one can consistently shut him down.
1) What did the Riders do different to get the win compared to their last match with the Eskimos?
The Riders had a different starting 12 on defence yet again, but this personnel group looked like they are playing together for weeks. The Riders only sacked Reilly once, but they pressured him at all the key junctures in the game. The Riders were also decisive on special teams, playing for field position and punting over long field goal attempts. Saskatchewan also had several big plays from the offensive backfield where Curtis Steele and the Riders had their biggest day on the ground in 2016.
2) What was the Riders strongest asset in the win?
The play-calling of offensive coordinator Steve McAdoo in the first half was not poor to start the game. Running in second and long situations is not going to win many games in the modern CFL. That said, McAdoo’s tendencies are sometimes difficult to track because he tends to change so much during the course of the game. In this game the second half play-calling was really quite inspired and exploited the weak spots within the Eskimos defence. The Riders need their plays to continue to be inventive to keep their new found momentum going.
3) What’s the one thing the Riders need to take from this win to go on an improbable run?
KB: The main ingredient for the team is to simply to remember how they felt closing out the game the way they did. The Riders won this game with a gutsy walk off overtime sneak to the pylon by their leader, Darian Durant. That was one player beating his man and it happened all over the field for the Riders. Saskatchewan will have to find a way to bottle the success they had in this game and draw on their experience for next game.
Ed Gainey was on his game tonight, and together with Justin Cox, made life no fun for the Eskimos receiving core. Gainey seems to have Reilly’s number this year with several great games against the Eskimos passer. Gainey made clutch plays all night, played a fairly disciplined game, and led his younger teammates by example. Gainey is always hustling so hard to the play and it was very infectious in this game.