Reilly finally KO’ed and other thoughts on the Esks sweeping the Lions

Sorry Mike, that’s not how any of us wanted it to end.

The Eskimos got off to a solid start against the Reilly-led Lions and held it down after the alpha finally got pushed too far in game 16. Edmonton’s 19-6 win means all six playoff teams are set, with the order of the West still to be determined in the last three weeks.

Some thoughts on the win:

– Other iconic former Esks Aaron Grymes and Odell Willis were also forced out of the game early with injuries. Grymes has been the best defensive back in the league this season, and not being able to find room for him is my one sorrow from Edmonton’s historical free agent frenzy. (Apparently they think he tore his ACL. Ugh.) This all ties in nicely, seeing how Money Hunter is the one filling his spot.

– Penalties. B.C. and Edmonton bring out the worst in each other to the tune of 307 combined yards this time around. (The first two editions saw 299 and 185 yards, respectively.) Some players can’t resist starting messes *cough* Carter or taking objectionable conducts *cough* Hunter. 170 for the Esks is an unflattering number, though, since a good chunk of that was offsetting, but regardless they really ought to cut out the post-whistle shenanigans.

Everyone loooooves to shout about how Edmonton is so undisciplined. Saturday’s penalty-fest is rather unfortunate given how I was already planning to make a very blunt point:

Yes, that’s right, if over that 14 week span Edmonton had taken one fewer procedure penalty every second game (2.5 yards per game), they’d have been the second best team over that time.

Don’t get mad at me, it’s a factual statement. Everybody and their dog knows a repeat of Saturday night won’t cut it in November. I’m not acting like none of the flags were real penalties (although some of them… more in a moment).

– Don’t get me wrong, Jason Maas is still a big git. When you’re up 10 points in the last six or so minutes and you have a hot running back, what do you do? That’s right, throw bombs!

Wait what?

Yeah. Before finally handing off twice in the final minute, there was a five-minute stretch where Edmonton handed off once while getting sacked once and throwing two deep balls, one of which was intercepted in the end zone to prevent a field goal attempt.

By now I’m sure you know how I feel about screens. Well also in that stretch the Esks threw an incomplete dump off to Ellingson, on first down with 2:38 left. And then – get this – they ran *the exact same play* three plays later for a zero-yard gain, also on first down. Why, why, why are you throwing in that scenario, much less a useless play like that? Even if Trevor Harris were the one under centre, it makes no sense.

Fourth string quarterback Troy Williams handled sneak duties but also took one shotgun snap and ran for four yards, so apparently Maas is not totally devoid of creativity.

– Full credit to Edmonton’s defence, who evidently have B.C.’s number. The Lions only scored six points, with two field goals. Both, as it turns out, were the result of deeply sketchy officiating.

The CFL command centre is an unmitigated disaster and I’m convinced that whenever they get a call right it’s by accident. Take this vapid excuse for an explanation on Edmonton’s second quarter pass interference challenge:

“There was no evidence that nothing happened.”

I… what? In addition to the ball being thrown ten feet over Carter’s head, the extent of the contact between Tyquwan Glass and Carter was brushing hands. Nothing. I’m serious when I say that’s probably the most embarrassing call that got doubled down on after a challenge that I’ve ever seen. It resulted in a free 25 yards for B.C. instead of a 45-yard field goal attempt – makeable, yes, but not a sure thing.

Fortunately the Lions were held to a field goal anyways so not too much harm done, except that headshaking coach Maas lost his challenge because of it. (It’s worth mentioning that also on that play, Bryan Burnham broke Hunter’s ankles and was free and clear but O’Brien had already locked onto Carter.)

The second field goal was sketchy like a New York alley at night – it may have been all fair play, but I have no idea what went on in the shadows. The broadcast was fairly clear that Duron Carter got a 15-yard penalty first, which pushed the Lions out of field goal range.

But then head referee Ben Major announced that old scamp ‘the eye in the sky’ jumped in and gave an offsetting major to Glass, pushing B.C. back into field goal range. I sincerely hope there was more than the clip TSN showed – while Carter gave Glass a (mild) headbutt, Glass literally put his hands on Carter’s chest and that was it.

All the better if I’m mistaken, because if something happened I couldn’t tell you what.

I’ll be nice and ignore the goal line stand no-TD calls and third quarter fumble review, all of which were close enough to coin flips and happened to go B.C.’s way.

– Josh Johnson missed his first game, so instead: Forrest Hightower appreciation note. #Elite

– You can suggest that B.C. would’ve won if Reilly hadn’t gotten hurt. It certainly would’ve been more likely, but the Lions managed all of eight yards in Reilly’s four plays, good only for a pair of two and outs. I know even better than Lions fans that Danny O’Brien is no Mike Reilly, but there wasn’t any indication in those first few minutes of a better offensive output for B.C. than in the other two Esks and Lions games.

Statistically: the green and gold defence ramped up the pressure and added four more sacks to their league-leading total while holding the Lions to 180 yards, 155 before the last play and just 109 through the air. There were a couple of gaffes allowing big John White gains, but a battered Eskimo secondary held league-best Burnham to two catches on eight targets for 29 yards. Non-Reilly effect, yes, but dominating all the same.

A big welcome and welcome back to linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox after his Eskimo debut. Only one tackle but he was very visible throughout the game.

– I listed three keys to an Eskimo victory before the game. Keep Burnham in check: success, helped as mentioned by the quarterback swap. Keep White in check: 10 carries for 59 yards until the last play, that’s a reasonable success. Shaq Cooper breakout: 18 carries for 94 yards and it should’ve been more, that’s a success too.

Cooper isn’t better than C.J. Gable in every way, but he’s *so* much more electric. On a similar note, I’m still loving Christion Jones being more involved in the offence. Shame we didn’t see much of Global player Diego Viamontes, who made his active roster debut alongside Jones at wide receiver.

– I’m sure he was feeling some really nasty effects of the early Willis hit – his tongue is in a Halloween-style state that I’m not going to include a picture of here – but we know what Logan Kilgore is, and sadly it’s not a CFL starting quarterback. If DaVaris Daniels had come back to an end zone ball just a little bit more in the first quarter, Kilgore would’ve at least gotten on the score sheet, but instead he finished under 200 yards for the first time this season with no touchdowns and one interception.

With that said, he put up a warrior performance. The ailing Kilgore showed a great amount of fire throughout the game, including one incredible moment where you would be forgiven for thinking Pat Mahomes had put on green and gold:

Congratulations to Ricky Collins for hitting 1,000 yards receiving for the first time and to Greg Ellingson for his fifth straight 1,000-yard season. On a very quiet Esks passing night, Ellingson was the lone shining star in the receiving core with a couple of huge catches and his third 100-yard game of the year. Sorry to Daniels being the ultra-forgotten man, with a true night to forget that included one catch, one drop, and a late benching after his second roughness penalty of the game.

– Sean Whyte, four-for-four with hits from 49 and 44. $$$.

In fact, with Lewis Ward and Sergio Castillo both missing once this weekend, Whyte takes over the season lead in field goal percentage at 90.2, a tremendous 46-for-51.

TSN reported that if Saturday’s game had been a playoff game, Trevor Harris may have started. That’s hugely encouraging, especially going into a bye week and extra recovery time. It remains to be seen how much Harris will play in what are likely to be standings-meaningless games (for Edmonton at least) against Saskatchewan Weeks 20 and 21.

I would definitely try to get him a half in each of those games at minimum so he’s not going into the playoffs completely cold. The Roughriders would have to lose to the Lions next week for Edmonton to have a chance at anything other than fourth, so it’s time to start looking ahead to Montreal in the East semi-final.

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