There was hope.

A Bo Levi Mitchell interception turning into an early Edmonton touchdown pushed the Eskimos to an early 7-0 lead and everyone was feeling good.

It did not last.

Now before I say what I’m going to say, remember this point: the referees, rather sketchy for both teams, did not cost Edmonton the game. OK? OK.

But the roughing the passer call on Mike Moore, negating a drive-ending sack and spurring Calgary to a long (over six-minute) scoring drive, was ghastly. I used to use the hashtag #FootballNotTiddlywinks, referring to the illegality of tackling quarterbacks over the last few years.

I understand you’re not allowed to hit the quarterback low, but that wasn’t a hit, that was a tackle. Nick Usher taking an objectionable conduct right after and later Money Hunter taking another 15-yard penalty with a late hit, though? That’s on the players, who – again – tend to be the same ones. I will give Hunter a partial pass on the interference he took.

Oddly enough, the roughing call neatly divided the Esks night – splendid in the brief time up to it, subpar afterwards. They’re a pro sports team; one call can’t (better not…) define your game. But shortly thereafter MOP front-runner Trevor Harris hurt his throwing arm and hopes started slipping away pretty quickly. Turns out I may have lied last week: it could get worse. More of the same and then throw in a quarterback injury.

At least we’re done with Calgary.

Some more thoughts:

– One other lie last time: the Esks don’t deserve fourth place *just* yet. After Saskatchewan’s display earlier in the day, there’s a good chance the season-ending back-to-back between the Riders and Esks decides who goes West and who goes East, but obviously still lots of ball to be played. No higher than third, that’s for sure.

– I was at the game (my first since 2016 largely thanks to a different Battle of Alberta that happens on rematch Saturday) and the PVR monster ate my game tape so forgive me if some takes end up a little less precise than I would like. Shout-out to the 40,113 fans who showed up on a beautiful night in Edmonton. You’re the best.

– Four or five different times Harris tried throwing a ball on the sidelines after his injury, desperate to get back in the game, but too many came out wobbly and lacking velocity. He could only shake his head in frustration. Esks fans are holding their breath that a bye week is enough to heal up properly.

My thoughts exactly, most notably on the game-sealing pick-six where he put it too far ahead of an open (but still short of the marker on third down – more on that later) Greg Ellingson. Kilgore did ‘fine’ for a guy with no reps, twice driving inside the Calgary five-yard line and finishing a respectable 21-of-28 for 242 yards with one interception.

There’s a theory that Harris was already hurting prior to the game. As evidence: his injury was reportedly non-contact and more importantly third string quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe was added to the active roster for the first time in several weeks.

Ahem… confirmed as I write!

And Mike Reilly remains the one true iron man.

– Screens are the worst. Just *the worst*. I can’t decide if former offensive co-ordinator Carson Walch is missed, because I also recall him doing some infuriating things in his time with Edmonton, but the timeline matches up pretty well. Both in 2018 and 2019 the Esks offence has been electric, sure, but not as good as it’s reputation thanks to consistent inconsistency issues.

– Matt O’Donnell gets my vote for offensive player of the game solely because of his fumble recovery and 16-yard romp. Surely a terrifying sight for any defender. Small hat-tip to C.J. Gable and his improved night, at least early.

– Josh Johnson gets his own note. What a stud. I love that guy. He was definitely playing field halfback this week, even though the depth chart had him at corner. It is appreciated.

– Reggie Begelton also gets his own note. What a stud. I love that guy. I mean hate. I mean… ugh.

Calgary’s first TD couldn’t have been done better. Don Unamba had excellent coverage in the front corner of the end zone, but alas, no dice.

– The visually recurring theme for a few weeks with Edmonton’s defence is opposing teams picking on the weakest links. Makes total sense, but I can’t count the number of times a catch has been made right in front of Hunter, Hoover, a linebacker.

More than a few chinks have shown up in the armour, but it’s super streaky. For example: after shredding Edmonton last week the Stampeders got absolutely nothing going in the run game on Saturday and also as dangerous as he was Begelton only caught seven of his 15 targets.

Plus just when I commented on the lack of blitzing and ineffective four man rush and wondered about defensive co-ordinator Phillip Lolley’s ability to adjust, consecutive third quarter Calgary drives ended thanks to a blitz forcing a bad throw on second down.

All the same, as excellent as the first third of the season was, the second third did not match it. Three interceptions is awesome, especially against Calgary, but the defence often struggled to stop drives quickly and force punts instead of field goals or more.

Unfortunately Forrest Hightower was put back on the injured list instead of the active roster, and there hasn’t been any recent news on linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox.

– Related to all that, it seems like other teams have no problem finding soft spots in Edmonton’s secondary but Edmonton can’t do the same on offence. One of many maddening notes.

– The special teams keeps doing it’s thing. Totally average.

– I and many others are losing some faith in coach Jason Maas. Maybe it’s kicking deep down 16 points despite the benefit of a 15-yard penalty. Maybe it’s the insistence on throwing for five yards on second (or third) and eight.

Maas has what I call ‘Oilersitis’: he plans around the best-case scenario, which doesn’t happen all that often. It’s hard to identify what all is on the coaches and what’s on the players (particularly true with receiver route depth and quarterback targets) but with a roster as absurdly talented as the Esks have, 6-6 is a deep disappointment.

He still does a lot of good things as a coach. One of the hardest things to do in any part of life is “trust the process” when the results aren’t there yet. But how long can you wait? In pro sports it’s usually not that long. Maas and Harris and co. have preached not making the same mistake twice, but some of that seems to be creeping in.

– Everything is happening as I’m writing.

I don’t know how much of an impact Betts can make in six games with a new system, but he’s a shiny new toy for Lolley to play with.

Brock Sunderland was apparently on the sidelines late in the game with a less than pleased expression on his face. A brief incident between Josh Johnson and Vontae Diggs probably wouldn’t have helped his mood. (For the record, it doesn’t overly concern me – Diggs has shown a growth mindset that many other players haven’t or won’t.)

An angry general manager and a bye week is a recipe for fireworks. When they come back, Edmonton will host Hamilton in what will be a fourth straight attempt to show some fire in the face of a top team. Upward arrows badly needed.

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Mike Ludwig
Mike Ludwig enjoys math, chess, and football, all of which are kind of related. He lives in Edmonton and does not endorse Rod Black's metaphors. Follow him on twitter at @CityOfChamps14.