CFL Week 10 Talking Points: Saskatchewan vs Edmonton

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Continuing with the CFL Talking Points series, Last Word On Sports CFL writers Thomas Gunther and Kelly Bale are back with the the latest game breakdown. The Edmonton Eskimos needed a win to make up ground in the West Division while the struggling Saskatchewan Roughriders simply needed a win. After a surprisingly hard fought 32-25 Eskimo win, Thomas and Kelly address the big questions raised by the game as well as their overall impressions of each team. For last week’s recap, you can click here. Let’s get start with the key takeaways in the CFL Week 10 Talking Points.

CFL Week 10 Talking Points

Edmonton Eskimos

1) What did the Eskimos do early to jump out to an 22-3 first half lead?

Thomas Gunther: The Edmonton Eskimos stuck to what they do best in the early stages of the game: moving Mike Reilly out of the pocket, running the ball, and going deep on passing plays. The Esks were confident and motivated to come out strong on the 1-7 Saskatchewan Roughriders and it showed in how they attacked the Riders in the first half. If Edmonton had been able to prolong that performance over four quarters we could be talking about a 62-0 blowout.

Kelly Bale: The Eskimos have been the first team in 2016 to lean heavily on the running game so early in a contest. This was a curve-ball for the Riders ,who must have expected the league’s leading passer,  Reilly, to come out throwing.

2) Which Eskimo unit stood out most in the win?

TG: The Eskimo’s defence was certainly better in the first half then they have been for most of the season. In the first quarter it looked like Darian Durant would never complete a pass to a receiver the way the Esks were smothering the Riders at the point of attack. However as the game went on it was the running game lead by Shakir Bell that stole the show and kept the Esks in the hunt for the West Division lead.

KB: The Eskimo offense stood out the most for the team tonight. The unit not only moved the ball down the field in the first, second, and fourth quarters but they also allowed their defence adequate time to rest when they needed it. As mentioned above, Bell was a beast for the Esks and the Riders certainly didn’t see it coming.

3) The Riders almost fought back in the second half of the game, but was this just Edmonton letting up early?

TG: Rider fans looking for a ray of sunshine don’t want to hear it, but yes, this was a case of the Eskimos going soft with the game presumably out of reach. The deep shot by Brandon Bridge to Naaman Roosevelt was brilliant and certainly kicked the Riders into high gear, but it also drew the attention of Reilly on the Eskimo sidelines. The Eskimo offence was quick to cover for their reeling defence and the Riders’ opportunity evaporated.

KB: Saskatchewan played well in the third quarter and early fourth to their credit. However, the Eskimos have a noted propensity to let teams back into games by taking their foot off the gas pedal. This certainly made it easier for the Riders when they attempted their comeback.

Top Performer

TG: The Eskimos’ fearless leader, Reilly, take this by a landslide. The veteran quarterback kept his name in the conversation for League MOP with a stellar outing for the home crowd in Edmonton. Reilly got outside the pocket and outran defenders to the first down marker again and again while taking every chance to test the Riders deep. The dive Reilly made for a touchdown in the fourth quarter was indicative of how hard it is to it to stop the CFL’s toughest player.

KB: In his first start of the season, Bell also claimed the top performer nomination for the Eskimos. Bell’s play not only gained the Eskimo offence valuable yards, it kept the Saskatchewan pass defence on their toes trying to spy his runs. Bell may have put together the best rushing game of the entire 2016 season to date in his first start.

Saskatchewan Roughriders

1) It is Week 10 in the CFL and the Riders seem to be making more mistakes than ever. Can this team continue to use youth and inexperience as reasons for its self-inflicted wounds?

KB: No, they can’t. The Riders either need to win or the coaching staff and management need to clearly explain to fans that the focus has shifted to next year. There are players who might have been new to the team or league back in training camp but they aren’t new anymore.

TG: The easy answer is yes because that is exactly what the Riders will likely do for the rest of the season, yet the real problem with the team goes deeper than the players. The truth of the matter is that the abysmal display of penalties and football fundamentals also falls on the coaching staff. The coaches are the ones educating the players on the rules and holding them accountable for penalties and mistakes, and there has been scant evidence of either this season.

2) The Riders offence has stagnated the past few games but came together late in this contest to give the Eskimos a run for their money. What changed for Saskatchewan tonight and how do they keep it going?

KB: The Riders showed guts in the second half but that doesn’t make their brutal first-half offence acceptable. The play-calling of offensive coordinator Steve McAdoo in the first half was awful. Running on second and long is not how you win football games in the modern CFL.

TG: Durant played his heart out despite being pummeled behind an injured and overwhelmed offensive line and gave the Riders a chance to win. But the reality is that the Eskimo defence looked almost as bad as the Rider’s at times and having limited success against them doesn’t mean much this late in the season.

3) On a night of heartbreak and seemingly endless negatives, find some hope for Rider Nation to look for in this season.

KB: That’s the million dollar question in the great wheat province. It is anyone’s guess how the season will go but true fans will battle on alongside their team no matter what. Being a true fan and sticking out this year might be something they can proudly to tell their grandkids about someday. Rider pride lives on!

TG: The outlook is bleak for Saskatchewan but there is hope on the horizon with a plethora of players set to come back from injury in the second half of the season. There is almost a full starting lineup on the Rider’s injury list and those players should make their way back to the field sooner rather than later to provide a much-needed boost. Perhaps this injection of talent and experience will propel the Green and White to some late season wins. It certainly can’t hurt.

Top Performer

KB: Roosevelt was easily the best Roughrider on the night from start to finish. There wasn’t another man wearing green and white who played nearly as well throughout the game. Roosevelt is a true pleasure to watch regardless of who you cheer for.

TG: Ed Gainey takes the nomination for the Roughriders. While the defensive back gave up some plays to Adarius Bowman (who doesn’t?), Gainey played well overall and never let up despite the score. Gainey picked off Reilly in the end zone and deflected numerous passes from the Edmonton pivot throughout the night. The Riders need their rookies to learn from the grit and hustle that Gainey displayed tonight if the team is to move out of the CFL basement.

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