Sportsball giveth, sportsball taketh away; thoughts on the Eskimos bank shot loss

*shakes head bewilderedly*

“I wonder what it’s like to lose a close game?” That’s a thing I said in the second quarter, since the Esks were yet to have a loss where they were especially in the game.

I’m over it.

Down 24-0 halfway through the second quarter to tied 27-27 with 35 seconds left. The most painful of losses, 30-27 on a last-play field goal. Big sigh.

Some thoughts:

– First on the finish: we got enough of the ‘soft zone’ nonsense in the Mike Benevides years. It played a big role in Hamilton’s early lead and darned if Phillip Lolley didn’t throw it out there again on the last drive.

Bralon Addison couldn’t have been much wider open. I much prefer the method used by Saskatchewan last week defending a late lead against Montreal: blitz like mad and force the inexperienced quarterback to make some tough, high pressure throws.

Edmonton has the dogs on the line and in the secondary to do it. It’s not a pleasant sign that I feel like I’m repeating myself from week to week, but they seem to be sending less pressure than early in the year, even if on paper four sacks looks very good.

– Further to that, the best thing you can do with Money Hunter and Jordan Hoover is keep them as far apart as possible. If those two are alone in the same area of zone coverage, bad things are likely to happen.

Hamilton took advantage of that juxtaposition, most evidently on the total debacle that was Addison’s 76-yard touchdown. It almost happened again in the third quarter, but Dane Evans overthrew a wide open Ticat receiver in the gap between them.

Hunter is a whole lot like former Eskimo Johnny Adams, who usually looked and felt much worse than the numbers suggested (think completion percentage allowed, yards against), but with bigger discipline issues and not as reliable overall. Safety, as I’ve mentioned before, is right there with running back for a place Edmonton has lacked a true star – or even routine competence – for a very long time.

– Third and finally alongside safety and running back: kick returner. But maybe just maybe Christion Jones is The One. All he needs is a wee bit of blocking, which is apparently too much to ask. His missed field goal return was something Esks fans haven’t seen in years.

But it was another not-great night for the kick return and cover units, with Edmonton starting at the 32, 28, 22, and 27 while Hamilton started from the 39, 31, 32, 37, and 39. As a one off, sure, it’s not much, but every time? Notice how Hamilton averaged very close to the 35, while Edmonton, ahem, did not.

Most importantly, kickoffs are like hitting the reset button on the field position game before punting back and forth until someone scores points. If your kickoff goes poorly, the follow-up will also likely be poor. With punts (and turnovers), Hamilton started around midfield for a good many drives in the first half. While the Esks didn’t even run a play in Hamilton’s half until the four-play touchdown drive at the end of the half, thanks to a 28-yard punt return from Jones.

– Sean Whyte remains money, nailing a 48 yarder to tie the game, but unfortunately he does contribute to the kickoff issues. I love him to death but he’s dead last in kickoff average (58.5) among kickers you’ve heard about. He trails teammate Hugh O’Neill (63.1) by almost five yards in fifth place (and thus approximately league average) Tyler Crapigna (65.8) by over seven yards. O’Neill could return off of the six-game injured list next week.

– Hamilton even botched the snap on the winning field goal attempt, but Evans managed it very well while Hajrulahu hooked the kick but kept it just barely straight enough to get a bounce through. Drat.

– July 2016, Hamilton at Edmonton. Edmonton leads 24-6 at halftime, scores on the first drive of the second half to make it 31-6… and then loses 37-31. Let me tell you, I had hopes and dreams. So close yet so far.

– Okay, going back to that first quarter. I’m not going to be all: “Wow, Hamilton was amazing!” And here’s why: the first half was exactly like when you win a chess game in nine moves. It’s not because you’re so amazing. It’s because your opponent was *that bad*.

And Edmonton was that bad for a 20 minute stretch. They had an OK first five minutes before it and were quite good for the following 34 and a half minutes. But then they were dreadful again for the last half minute and Hamilton was certainly good enough to take advantage, which is all you need.

– Most teams play better coming out of a bye. Probably another indictment on Edmonton’s coaching staff. Some credit at least for the push back, but seriously, 24-0?

– 2019 draft pick Mathieu Betts had a fine debut in green and gold, getting a sack and forced fumble in the third quarter and coming close to a couple of Hamilton punts. General manager Brock Sunderland referred to him as being like a Canadian John Chick when he was drafted, and while that’s hefty praise without playing a professional snap, his sheer noticeability indicates he has the ability to reach that level.

– I won’t accuse C.J. Gable of playing without fire, but after some sparring and chirping with Simoni Lawrence (following a viciously dirty, intent-to-injure late hit on Kilgore) he ramped it up a notch. He was responsible for 53 of the 62 yards on the game-tying touchdown drive, including a 26-yard catch and run to the Hamilton one-yard line.

Now, we know running backs get less use when you’re trailing in the fourth quarter. But Gable didn’t get a touch on any of the next three drives, before or after Hamilton regained the lead with a field goal. Only one penalty-boosted target and one carry on the last drive. “Run with the hot hand” is a convention that was unfortunately ignored.

– Burn screens. And if you’re going to call a screen, use a guy like Jones who’s actually shifty enough to break the odd one. (They did use Jones, twice, with legitimate success.)

– My biggest question mark with Logan Kilgore is if his time off the playing field cost him some arm strength and he’s taking a while to get it back. I could be wrong, but some of his wide side throws lacked some zip, like on his first interception. He badly underthrew DaVaris Daniels while on the run in the fourth quarter for what could have been a game-winning touchdown. And yet, other times he fired it into a tight window nicely.

Like last game, Kilgore’s vision seems excellent, but unfortunately the total performance was a bit lacking. Ellingson had three catches (with the above spectacular touchdown) on eight targets while Daniels had two catches on 10 targets. Both miserable stats, but despite the rest of the crew combining for just one incompletion, most (though not all) of those misses were on Kilgore. A bit bizarre.

– A CFL game recap isn’t finished without a criticism of officiating. Today it has nothing to do with penalties, but the booth, which somehow routinely manages to be worse than the on-field product.

Edmonton’s roughing the passer challenge? Don’t have a problem with the call. It was a bit of a desperation challenge and nobody knows the rules anyways, so letting it stand is whatever. Also on the night I learned that the number of steps required to ‘have control’ is the number of steps Davaris Daniels takes plus one.

Much more importantly: Kilgore’s first interception. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, I’m not going to say either way. But while it may have been completely under control (or not), it definitely contacted the turf, and *you would think* that means the command centre would pause for half a moment to take a look. Nope. Hamilton was able to run a play very quickly and, unfortunately, it was even a touchdown.


– I’m sorry (actually I’m not) but Glen Suitor is bad at his job. For example, Suitor says “looks like the Eskimos will be getting a tripping penalty” and what actually happens is Hamilton gets called for holding. Multiple times a game.

– Ricky Ray has never been one to show emotion, but he did on Friday. That’s how you know how much his induction to the Wall of Honour meant to him. Sean Fleming, ‘Mookie’ Mitchell, and Fred Stamps were among the former teammates in-house to celebrate him. Thank you indeed, Ricky.

Next up Edmonton travels East to face the hapless Redblacks in Ottawa. Lord help us if they manage to lose that one too.

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