Playing from behind and taking untimely penalties, like they did in a recent 20-17 loss to the Toronto Argonauts, have become bad habits for the Edmonton Eskimos. They intend to put an end to both in the rematch with the Argos at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday.
Better starts and playing with more discipline and attention to detail have been the focus for the Eskimos this week after they spotted the Argos a 12-0 lead in the first six minutes last Saturday, then roared back to go ahead 17-12 only to see James Franklin win it late with a 75-yard drive in his debut in place of injured Ricky Ray.
“It’s something that you have to correct right away,” quarterback Mike Reilly said. “Those types of things are things that show up throughout the season when you lack attention to detail as players.
“That’s not something that, you know, we correct this week and it’ll just be gone for the rest of the season. It’s something that you have to be conscious and aware of throughout the entire year.”
The Eskimos compounded giving the Argos a double-digit lead by taking a season-high 12 penalties for 126 yards, including a holding call that took a touchdown off the board. That’s not the way head coach Jason Maas has drawn things up for the rematch.
“Same as it always is, disciplined, fast and physical. That’s how we’d like to play,” Maas said. “I feel like football is meant to be played that way.
“If you do your job and you’re disciplined, fast and physical doing it, good things happen. That hasn’t changed. Our message all week has been changing some of the discipline things to make us more disciplined – more awareness on that front.”
When Franklin capped Toronto’s first possession by rushing in from two yards out – the convert was missed – the Eskimos were behind early for the third time in four games. The Argos made it 12-0 on a five-yard run by James Wilder Jr. after running back C.J. Gable fumbled on Edmonton’s first possession.
“When you dig yourself a hole like that it can be very difficult to get yourself out of,” defensive back Aaron Grymes said. “We just can’t do that. You put yourself in a 12-point hole, a two-possession hole like that, it’s hard to bounce back from.”
The Eskimos had a touchdown by Gable called back on a holding penalty to fullback Alex Dupuis. They were also called twice for objectionable conduct and once for roughing. Through four games, the Eskimos have been flagged 37 times for 419 yards, second only to Montreal in both categories.
“Those penalties are the ones that are inexcusable,” Grymes said of flags after the whistle. “If you get flagged for a questionable call if you’re playing aggressive, we can live with that.
“It’s the dumb penalties. It’s the repeat offenders. Things like that that are starting to get a little bit irritating. These are the things we’ve got to work on. If you want to be playing here in November in the Grey Cup, we’ve got to knock that stuff out now.”
It all added up to wasting a 370-yard passing game by Reilly on a day the Eskimos dominated time of possession and managed to mount a comeback with 17 straight points despite being unable to finish in the red zone as often as they would have liked.
“It’s also about finishing and we had a chance to finish the game and we didn’t even though we had all those previous mistakes,” veteran fullback Calvin McCarty said. “I know what we’re made of and we know what we have to do Friday.”