The Edmonton Elks finally scored a point against the B.C. Lions — 29 of them, actually — but it was still not enough to avoid the season sweep at the hands of the Leos. Edmonton fell to 4-11 with a 37-29 loss at Commonwealth Stadium.
Here are my thoughts on the game.
Where’s the Offence?
The Lions had a great plan on defence and showed the best way to corral Tre Ford that we have seen to date. Ford and Kevin Brown had been ripping defences apart in the last few weeks but were held to a total of 61 yards rushing.
There were bright spots. Dillon Mitchell caught two touchdowns. Ford went 20-of-27 for a 74 percent completion rate. Edmonton did not give up an interception or lose a fumble. There were even moments in the fourth quarter where it looked like they might pull off the unthinkable and make the comeback for a third straight game.
It was not to be. With only 219 yards of total offence, it was amazing the game was even as close as it was on the scoreboard.
“I thought we started a bit slow,” Ford said. “Really bad offensively in the first quarter. We were able to bounce back a bit in the second quarter but we weren’t able to do enough. Defence gave us lots of chances late in the game and we just didn’t come up successfully on offence. That’s on me. I couldn’t lead the team down and score points when we needed to.”
For a kid that has just started his eighth game, Ford did make some mistakes but this was far from all on him. I appreciate that he is taking the leadership role in this but his supporting cast did not provide a lot of means for him to succeed either. It was a learning game for everyone going up against the best competition they have had in the last month.
In recent weeks, the offensive line had vastly improved in opening up gaps for the running game and giving their young QB a bit more time to process his attack. This game was a definitive step back.
The B.C. defensive line was feasting most of the night with a final tally of seven sacks. The pressure was on as soon as the ball was snapped. There were blitz packages in there but even with a four-man rush, there was little time for a play to develop. When there were rushing plays called, they rarely got out of the backfield. When it broke down to a scramble, there always seemed to be three or four Lions in full chase with not a green jersey to be seen.
That could have a bit to do with the offensive play calls as well. There did not seem to be much in the way of called Ford runs like we have seen in the last three weeks. Understandably, there was a focus on using the passing game more, especially after being down early, which gets away from the game plan that created the recent success.
When a defence gives up 37 points, there is usually not a lot of praise for them. The Elks definitely had their missteps — missing tackles completely on Jevon Cottoy’s touchdown and allowing Taquan Mizzell to get 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns — but they also had moments of excellence.
Just to shake things up, right before kickoff, defensive lineman Kony Ealy was ruled out and freshly signed Emeke Egbule drew in. He was recently with the St. Louis Battlehawks and Pittsburgh Steelers and had just joined the team four days earlier. For jumping into a game, the Houston product did reasonably well.
Jake Ceresna continues to show how much of a dominating lineman he can be. He racked up two more sacks in this game to bring his season total to ten — only four off the league lead. He spent a great deal of this game applying pressure in the backfield that does not show up on a stats sheet.
Nyles Morgan took over the league lead in tackles, at least temporarily, with 12 in this game. He did limp off the field at one point but was able to come back in and continue to contribute. When he’s on the field, he is all over it.
Kai Grey picked up his second interception of the year and turned it into a 56-yard pick-six. He seemed to come out of right field on the throw from Vernon Adams Jr. and showed blazing speed to take it to the house.
Darius Bratton picked up his first interception of the year on a beautiful contested ball that needed to be reviewed to confirm the pick. Much like the Elks season though, the early deficits were too much to overcome for the ending desired.
Tough Kicking Night
After hitting his last 11 field goals, Dean Faithfull went two of four in this game. One was missed from 50 yards out, which was the longest attempt he has had this year. A tough turn on what had been some really good progression for the Brit.
After having two games where only five punts were needed, Jake Julien needed to punt eight times in this game. There was more pressure on each of his attempts as well, with one in the fourth quarter being partially blocked. The Elks almost recovered the tipped kick on a fumble from Justin McInnis but B.C. was able to take the ball at the Edmonton 54-yard line and turn that into another field goal.
It is hard to take any kind of moral victories out of this game given how desperately Edmonton needed the win for the standings. But after being shut out two games in a row by this opponent, this contest was much closer and more exciting to watch as an Elks fan. The gap between the two teams is at least a little closer than it had been.
“We got outplayed in all three phases, I thought,” head coach Chris Jones said. “Offensively, defensively and in the kicking game, they beat us in this game. They outperformed us. We’re closer than maybe what we were but you don’t get consolation prizes for losing football games. I think we’re a little closer in that, at any given moment, we can compete with anybody in the league. We had opportunities in the second half in all three phases to win the game but unfortunately, we did not complete the task.”
Although not mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, the likelihood of everything falling into place after that loss for the Elks to have a postseason is about as probable as finding a three-dollar bill. This is the CFL, however, and crazier things have happened.
The Green and Gold could not avoid the injury bug once again. Scott Hutter left the game after he ran down Terry Williams to prevent an early return touchdown. He was listed as having an upper-body injury and it did look like he landed awkwardly on that push out of bounds.
Receiver Vincent Forbes-Mombleau and defensive back Marcus Lewis were both ruled out with lower body injuries as the game went on. There was an impact on all three phases of the game.
Rest and Reset
The Elks now go into their second bye week of the 2023 season. The focus will have to be resetting and not focusing on the standings.
“We have to get everyone healthy,” Jones said. “We had three of our starters get banged up tonight. We had guys playing both special teams and defence and vice versa, so I’m proud of the efforts that we had. We’re never going to give up. I’m proud of how they come to work every day and I fully expect after the bye that we are going to come back refreshed.”
The Elks took a step in the right direction with this game. They may not be in the top tier of teams yet, but they are starting to look like they are not as far off as they were early on. Edmonton may know their fate when they next step on the field in Toronto on October 6, but will have another opportunity to set the bar against a top team in the league.