Esks survive Redblacks to keep pace in the Wild West

I love the game.

But the CFL as a league leaves a lot to be desired.

First a confession: I was all ready to shred the holding that negated a game-sealing 63-yard DaVaris Daniels touchdown, almost costing Edmonton the game, but I’ve discovered it was called on guard Jacob Ruby, despite Glen Suitor’s best efforts to convince us it was on C.J. Gable. That said, I found a replay and still think it’s a terrible call. Fortunately no harm done.

The clear biggest head-shaker on the night was the fancy new weather policy arbitrarily ending a one score game in Montreal in the 3rd quarter, when postponing 5 minutes earlier would have meant waiting up to an extra two hours for the weather to clear. Some quirks are not lovable.

But anyways. Edmonton holds on to beat Ottawa at home 16-12, staying within a game of first in the West and taking a big step closer to locking in yet another crossover season.

Some thoughts:

– They say good teams can win ugly. I don’t know how good Edmonton is, but that win sure was ugly.

– Edmonton’s defence was fine but not quite up to their standard of excellence. Only 12 points against, but quarterback Dominique Davis and running back John Crockett were on the verge of the magical 300- and 100-yard marks, respectively. The ‘D’ hadn’t even given up an over-200-yard performance to an opposing QB before Friday and Davis almost hit that in the first half. One silvery lining is that aside from safety Jordan Hoover getting badly beat for a 67-yard Ottawa touchdown – a big asterisk, I know – the Redblacks didn’t find the end zone – thank you to last-play hero Josh Johnson, and Anthony Orange before him. Ottawa’s only real recurring passing weapon was screening to young speedster Rafael Araujo-Lopes, which experienced a great deal of success.

– No sacks on the night and it seemed like defensive co-ordinator Phillip Lolley may have gone easy on Davis with a general lack of many-man pressure. For turnovers, the first noticeable blitz induced an interception, while Davis’s second interception was a one-in-a-thousand pinball occurrence. The scariest thing about the performance was how much it resembled Mike Benevides’s infamous bend-but-don’t-break 2016-2018 units. Thankfully it did not break, featuring three stands in the red zone.

– Special teams were decent with Sean Whyte missing another long field goal attempt before making a similar one. New guy Christion Jones didn’t see a ton of action but he immediately provided a badly needed spark to the Eskimo return game. Meanwhile, the league’s newest overnight star Devonte Dedmon was mostly held in check, which means he didn’t score this week. It would be a real shame if his late-game injury keeps him out for long.

– The offence. Oy vey. Where do I start? With the well documented insistence on highly ineffective screens? The disastrous short yardage struggles? How about both at the same time? Over 400 yards but only 16 points? A note or two on each, I suppose.

The first point I will say simply: find someone who loves you as much as Jason Maas loves dumps and screens. I guarantee the number was in double digits and I can recall two, maybe three that got a first down. The attempt on third and two is not one of them.

Secondly, if there’s one way I wish Trevor Harris could be more like Mike Reilly it’s on QB sneaks. Maybe it’s not taking the snap as quickly as Reilly, maybe it’s a lack of forward push. Multiple turnovers means Ottawa’s defence deserves credit, including a hold at the one-yard line. You want those to be automatic. On the topic, if you do anything other than sneak on third and short you deserve every bad thing that happens to you, no matter what The Reklaws say.

Lastly, even though Harris was over 300 yards and Gable over 100 with 35 minutes of possession, the offence had another very sloppy game. We’re halfway into August now; not panic time, as Harris said post-game, but how long can you keep saying “if they start clicking, watch out?”

– I have a suspicion with the Esks offence: they talk very frequently about getting into second and short, second and manageable. That’s great and all, but that should only be one technique towards the bigger goal of getting first downs. Once in a while you should be able to get 10 yards on first and 10. Last week in Calgary saw an abrupt halftime shift from no downfield passing to a ton. This week they barely started throwing deeper until desperation time, in need of fourth quarter points.

Harris can do it. 33-for-40 is a fantastic completion percentage (buoyed by a shallow depth of target, yes). I don’t know who needs to trust No. 7 more: himself or the play caller.

– After the media storm with Pruneau during the week, I admit I grinned a little when Gable broke his ankles on the first TD run.

– Natey Adjei, with seven catches for 68 yards, finished as the narrow leader of the pack of five players with six or more targets and 34 to 68 receiving yards. Offence by committee continues, with varying results. Having a reliable running game can do wonders.

– It wasn’t in the Esks game, but my heart goes out to Batman, Bryant Mitchell, who tore his Achilles in an NFL preseason game Friday night. All the best wishes for his recovery.

Next up for Edmonton is a visit to the Argos, coming off their big win against Winnipeg and a bye week. Motivation only carries you so far, and Toronto is as good an opportunity as any to right the offensive ship before the upcoming Winnipeg-Calgary-Calgary gauntlet.

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