Edmonton Eskimos Fail to Conquer Adversity

Adversity: some conquer it and use as fuel, while others let it destroy them. After the Edmonton Eskimos failed to defeat the Ottawa Redblacks on Saturday, many fans will want to talk about the officiating, specifically the last play of regulation, which seemed to be whistled in and then stopped without a timeout or penalty. However, while penalties impacted the game, the reason why the Eskimos lost 45 – 37 in overtime was that they could not conquer adversity.

Starting Slow

Adversity came in many forms for the Eskimos and in the first quarter was all about penalties. Running back John White was the focus of the first quarter, catching a 20 yard pass and rushing five times for 23 yards. However, White also received unnecessary roughness and illegal participation penalties, which negated some positive plays. This prevented the Eskimos from getting deep into Ottawa territory.

Of their first five possessions, the Eskimos started three pinned deep on their own end, on the six, eight, and five yard lines, conceding a safety on the last series. At the end of the first quarter the score was 3-1 in Ottawa’s favour. The Eskies did not follow their own mantra of start fast and finish everything they do. They neither started fast nor finished a drive in the first quarter with points.

Not moving the football on offense left the Eskimos defending a short field in the first 15 minutes. Yet the defense hung in with sam linebacker Kenny Ladler leading the way with a tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery. It was encouraging, but would not last long.

Secondary Holes

More adversity appeared when an already beaten up secondary started to experience other injuries. The defensive back shuffle started in the second quarter. Garry Peters moved to the wide side corner and Deion Belue moved to the inside halfback for Cord Parks. As the secondary started to shuttle personnel in and out the Redblacks adjusted to the wide side zone coverage.

Both the wide side halfback and corner gave up large cushions and Burris went to work with passes to Jake Harty, Brad Sinopoli and Greg Ellingson as receiver after receiver sat down in the zone. Running back Kienan Lafrance put the Redblacks up 9 – 4, after a drive where Burris picked the Eskimos secondary apart.

Empire Strikes Back

The offence finally moved the ball with a big play to Derel Walker for 55 yards. Four more plays later, a 27 yard pass to White tied the game 11 – 11 just before the half.  While the secondary continued to have problems, special teams gave the Eskimos a 18 – 14 lead just over two minutes into the second half after Reuben Frank recovered his own blocked punt for a touchdown.

The Eskimos should have put the Redblacks in a deep hole when Odell Willis tipped and intercepted a pass returning the interception down to the Ottawa 12 yard line. A touchdown at this stage would have swung momentum to the Eskimos. However, the Redblacks defense stuffed a White run and newcomer defensive tackle Connor Williams gets the sack on Mike Reilly forcing the Eskimos to settle for another Sean Whyte field goal. There was the Eskimos’ old friend adversity pushing the home team. At this point there was still plenty of game time to find out if they could defeat it.

With the score 21 -14 in favour of the Eskimos, Henry Burris injured a finger on his throwing hand on the snap, and Trevor Harris came in at quarterback for the Redblacks.

When the Levee Breaks

Harris turned a leak in the Eskimos secondary to a dam burst with a 71 yard touchdown bomb to Chris Williams. The touchdown tied the game 21 – 21 halfway through the third and swung momentum back in favor of the Redblacks.

The play exposed veteran Patrick Watkins, who looked like he was suffering from an injury of his own, apparently having problems tackling. Watkins had to leave the game at one point with a shoulder or arm issue, but made his way back onto the field later. Throughout the night Watkins, Peters, Belue and Parks were all exposed, giving up 543 yards through the air.

The Eskimos mostly rushed four and mixed in blitzes on occasion. On a short field once again Harris stands in on a zero cover blitz to deliver a 37 yard touchdown to Williams once again taking the lead 28-21. It looked like the champs were on the ropes and taking a beating. How would they respond?

Counterpunch

Like a heavyweight boxing champ the Eskimos counter punched late in the third quarter with a drive, but stalled at the Ottawa 28 yard line, leading to a Whyte field goal. The kick kept the Eskimos within striking distance of the lead, at 28 – 24. Ottawa countered with their own drive, culminating with a Chris Milo field goal that made the score 31 – 24.

After swapping field goals to bring the score to 34 – 27 midway through the fourth quarter the Eskimos got another big play in Reilly to Walker for 64 yards. Five plays later White had his second touchdown on a 2 yard strong side run outside the right tackle. With the score tied at 34 – 34, Reilly marched the Eskimos from their own 38 yard line, and a Whyte field goal put them in the lead with 58 seconds remaining.

Controversy and Adversity

With the score 37 – 34 in the Eskimos’ favour late in the fourth, all the defence had to do was keep the Redblacks out of field goal range. Harris had other ideas, and completed four passes in a row. After the first completion the Redblacks called a timeout with 38 seconds left. After the third completion the ball was on the Ottawa 42 yard line and Deon Lacey went down with a hand injury stopping the clock with 28 seconds left. All the Eskimos had to do on defence was make one, maybe two more plays. But they allowed Harris to complete a 9 yard pass to Sinopoli to move the ball to the Edmonton 48 yard line with 20 seconds left.

Confusion reigned with Ottawa as they stepped up to line of scrimmage with the game clock counting down. Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell changed his mind and shuttled the kicking team onto the field while Harris pulled John Gott up from center. With 7 seconds remaining CFL referee Andre Proulx blew his whistle and put a stop to the confusion. The game clock seemed to have stopped briefly and the question is should it have? Could the Redblacks have put the right personnel on the field to make the field goal without Proulx’s intervention?

As both teams struggled to get the right personnel on the field, the clock restarted and with 1 second remaining and Eskimos head coach Jason Maas called his one remaining timeout. Milo’s kick was outstanding and tied the score at 37 – 37 with no time remaining in regulation. Adversity had once again shown its ugly face to the Eskimos, but they now had overtime to conquer it.

But overtime was much of the same. Harris picked apart the Eskimos secondary, scoring a major and two point conversion to take a 45 – 37 lead. All the pressure now was on the Eskimos offence to not only score, but score a major and keep pace. Reilly completed a 7 yard pass and after an incomplete pass had third and three to keep overtime alive. As the play developed Reilly stepped up in the pocket that was collapsing around him and with room the run made a choice to throw the ball into double coverage. Pass incomplete, and the game was Ottawa’s.

Reilly passed for 383 yards, Walker had 149 yards receiving, Bowman had 106 yards receiving and White had 99 combined yards on the night. All things considered the Eskimos had the offence and many opportunities to win the ball game. However they failed to conquer adversity and earn the victory.

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