Esks shredded by Riders and other thoughts on game one of the home-and-home

I had stuff going on all weekend so I watched the game on tape Sunday night, and our format is going to be a little different this week.

As a first comment, my weekend involved a similar sentiment to the Eskimos: even when the game isn’t super meaningful, you really, really hate to lose.

Let’s get to it.

1.

Again, and again, and again, and again….

2.

Good: A 14-0 lead early and a 17-7 halftime lead. They earned every bit of it against a good team. The first quarter was dominating in all facets.

Bad: Being down 24-17 in the fourth quarter despite those leads. It’s perplexing how often everything seems to stop working at once, it’s never that the defence starts struggling but the offence keeps putting up points.

Ugly: Another loss on a last second field goal. Man am I getting tired of those.

3.

Good: Very nice to have Trevor Harris retake the controls, deep balls into the wind notwithstanding. A mostly tidy first game back with 321 yards and a touchdown, bookended by a 65-yard completion on his first play plus a great drive to tie the game with two minutes left. His biggest advantage over Logan Kilgore is his ability to consistently fire passes into the middle of the field for 10-plus yards and a first down.

Bad: Those two interceptions, which were pretty much the same throw twice. First, a 50-50 ball lofted into the corner of the end zone for five-foot-11 Christion Jones is not a smart decision – and yet, it seemed like the called play. I expect the hope was that Jones could beat his man clean, but when it doesn’t work you should be able to reload and not give away points that deep in enemy territory. The second was more understandably to DaVaris Daniels but it was also poorly done and ended up going the other way.

Ugly: Only scoring 17 offensive points when not starting at the Rider one-yard line. Speaking of Groundhog Day for the Esks, over 400 yards on offence but not as many points as there ought to be.

4.

Good: Ricky Collins, Tevaun Smith, and Greg Elingson all had great nights, with a combined 19 catches on 22 targets. Ellingson was particularly impressive to me, seemingly showing up every time Edmonton needed something done. That includes a big third down conversion on the tying drive. He and former Eskimo Brandon Zylstra strike me as very similar receiver types, although Zylstra is obviously the better player.

Bad: Daniels was the lone man out again, with a measly two catches on five targets for 17 yards.

Ugly: Have to pick on Daniels a bit. A third quarter incompletion on second and 10 from the Saskatchewan 49-yard line where Harris laid in a great ball but Daniels couldn’t keep track of it despite beating his man. That was an opportunity for if not a dagger, a major poke while still up 17-7, especially since Saskatchewan scored four plays after the ensuing punt.

5.

Good: Shaq Cooper is electric as anything. 65 yards on thirteen carries is very average, but his jukes and jives and everything were terrific. For example:

Disappointing: First downs, time of possession, turnovers, offensive plays, second down conversions. Tons of similar stats between the two teams, right down to the starting running backs having 88 total yards versus 89 total yards. But the difference in the game was exactly what happened on the last drive: Saskatchewan kept throwing and Edmonton failed to cover, resulting in a break of the 24-24 tie.

Beautiful: Veteran fullback Calvin McCarty had not one but TWO rushing touchdowns, with a blocking assist from big defensive tackle Almondo Sewell. That makes this the second season since 2010 he’s had two, much less in one game (which has happened twice, once each in 2009 and 2010).

6.

Good: Only four penalties for 56 yards and much of it questionable. In fact Saskatchewan drew six flags before Edmonton got called at all. Take that Maas haters.

Bad: I’m pretty sure Forrest Hightower all but missed Naaman Roosevelt, yet they called a high hit. Similarly, Cody Fajardo fell onto Boateng who made some contact with the quarterback’s head, resulting in a flag.

Ugly: For my money, there could have been offensive pass interference on Shaq Evans right before Saskatchewan scored their first touchdown – a subtle push causes Josh Johnson to lose his balance and allow the completion, but so be it. More importantly there shouldn’t have been defensive pass interference when Kyran Moore sold the crap out of a call that negated an Eskimo interception, as it turns out also right before a Rider touchdown. Predictably, Maas’s challenge failed.

7.

Good: Don Unamba and not much else.

Bad: Johnson and Hightower. Woof. Two cover guys having awesome seasons had atrocious nights as Evans and especially Moore reaped the benefits. A few times an Eskimo defensive back slipped at a terrible moment, but that’s way too poor a performance for any sort of excuse. Moore was basically uncovered all night.

Ugly: 429 passing yards against is just so bad. And to think the Esks defence was averaging around 200 yards a game coming in. Credit to the Roughriders’ halftime adjustments, to which the Esks had no answer.

8.

Good: Four more sacks to the tally and a whole lot more hits, including a strip sack by Unamba recovered by Mike Moore at the one-yard line.

Also good: Trevor Harris was kept upright the whole game – no sacks allowed.

Ugly: Nick Usher’s angle of attack on Fajardo, who used his patented reverse spin move to somehow evade two would-be sackers by inches before making a big play. Shame on you, Nick, you weren’t expecting it?

9.

Good: One thing people forget about defensive players is that lots of tackles – in other words, being high-event – doesn’t automatically make you a good player. If it’s a linebacker, then great; Jovan Santos-Knox was very involved and led the team with eight takedowns.

Bad: The flip side is defensive backs, where as a loose rule lots of tackles often means allowing lots of completions. Johnson, Hightower, Hoover and Walker are four of the five main cover guys and combined for 19 tackles.

Strange: Don Unamba had the rare accomplishment of one tackle but two sacks, thanks to his sack-plus-fumble.

10.

Good: A four and a half minute game-tying drive from the 35 all the way to the end zone. Clutch stuff when needed from Harris and co.

Bad: The drive at the end of the first half saw four straight completions for 62 yards before the clock running after a one-yard catch caught the Eskimos off guard and forced them to use a timeout when the likeliest outcome was a field goal anyways.

REALLY ugly: Letting Saskatchewan move 69 yards all the way from their own six-yard line in a minute and a half for the winning field goal is not nice at all. Being tied with a good team with a minute left is a great sign… until the collapse. Depleted secondary or no, that can’t happen.

One more week of the regular season as Edmonton finishes in Regina. It’s another game that doesn’t affect Edmonton’s standing, but riding into the playoffs with a win would be a huge boost for an obviously troubled squad.

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