Eski­mos need of­fen­sive turn­around

Ed­mon­ton has no room for fail­ure with three games re­main­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - - I CFL SPORTS - ROBIN BROWN­LEE

BYE BYE BUONO?: To­day’s game could be the last time Wally Buono stands on the McMa­hon Sta­dium side­lines if the Lions don’t get to a play­off game there. The 68-year-old has vowed his 25th sea­son as a CFL head coach will be his last. Buono was head coach in Cal­gary for 12 years and won Grey Cups with the Stam­ped­ers in 1992, 1998 and 2001.

SIN­GLE­TON SIZ­ZLING: With

94 tack­les, Stam­ped­ers mid­dle line­backer Alex Sin­gle­ton is on pace for a sec­ond straight sea­son of more than

100. He recorded a fran­cise-record

123 last sea­son when he was named the CFL’s best de­fen­sive player. DMONTON — The Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos have lost five of their past six games and sit in last place in the CFL’s West Di­vi­sion head­ing into a crit­i­cal con­test to­day against the Ot­tawa Red­blacks.

Some­how, the 2018 Grey Cup hosts have to jump-start an of­fence that’s come off the rails and hit the ditch.

The Eski­mos (7-8) haven’t scored a touch­down in nine quar­ters. They haven’t scored a sin­gle point in the fourth quar­ter of their past four games. And quar­ter­back Mike Reilly has been run­ning for his life be­hind an of­fen­sive line that’s given up nine sacks the past two games.

What’s more, Reilly could be less than 100 per cent. Reilly wasn’t on the field for Fri­day’s walk-through be­cause he has the flu, although he is ex­pected to start.

“He just had the flu,” said head coach Ja­son Maas, who had backup Kevin Glenn tak­ing snaps with the first-team of­fence. “He just wanted to stay home

Eso he doesn’t af­fect ev­ery­body else. He’ll be ready. “Our walk-through was great. Kevin took charge of that and he looked good. Our guys looked ready to play. We still have 24 hours to lock it down, but right now I think we feel pretty con­fi­dent that they know what to do.”

Ed­mon­ton hasn’t scored a touch­down since Duke Wil­liams hauled in a

23-yard pass from Reilly in the third quar­ter of a 28-15 loss to the East Di­vi­sion-lead­ing Red­blacks (8-6) in Ot­tawa on Sept. 22. The fourth-quar­ter scor­ing drought dates back to a 23-20 loss to the Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers on Sept. 3 when the Eski­mos man­aged three points on a

43-yard field goal by Sean Whyte. “The mis­takes that we make in the red zone, that’s it,” run­ning back C.J. Gable said.

“We get down there. We’re just not ex­e­cut­ing our plays when we get down there.

“It’s like a fum­ble or an in­ter­cep­tion. We’re hurt­ing our­selves. No­body else is re­ally hurt­ing us.”

In Mon­day’s 19-12 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers at Mo­saic Sta­dium, Reilly was sacked a to­tal of five times and tossed three in­ter­cep­tions, in­clud­ing the win­ning points on a

49-yard pick-six by Wil­lie Jef­fer­son with 2:16 to play.

Af­ter al­low­ing just four sacks in the first six games (four wins), the Eski­mos’ of­fen­sive line has given up

31 sacks in nine games since. Their to­tal of 35 is sec­ond only to Mon­treal and is six more than the 29 they al­lowed all last sea­son.

“Right now, every­one has to play bet­ter and work that lit­tle bit harder,” said Ed­mon­ton’s Matt O’Don­nell, who is mov­ing back to right guard to­day af­ter play­ing left tackle. “Ev­ery inch counts right now, whether it’s a mis-step or mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“We hold our­selves to a high stan­dard. If we’re not get­ting the job done, it’s not so much every­one else look­ing at us, it’s our own group look­ing at our­selves. It’s like, ‘Guys, we need to pick this up, we need to get this right.’ Oth­er­wise, we’ll be sit­ting at home.”

With three games re­main­ing — against Ot­tawa, at B.C. (7-7) on Oct. 19 and home to Win­nipeg (8-7) on Nov. 3 — the Eski­mos have left them­selves no mar­gin for er­ror.

“We’ve looked at ev­ery­thing,” Maas said.

“I think the big­gest con­cern for us is the mi­nus-12 in turnover ra­tio for the last three games. When you look at that, how do you cur­tail that? You con­cen­trate on the de­tails. You fo­cus on the lit­tle things.

“You make ev­ery­body un­der­stand how im­por­tant ev­ery route con­cept is depth-wise, split-wise, what our block­ing schemes are, how im­por­tant it is for every­one to do their job so that when (Reilly) drops back he sees a big­ger pic­ture, a bet­ter pic­ture and can fo­cus on the throws.

“He needs to be more ac­cu­rate at times. We’ve worked on his foot­work, we’ve worked on some things... we’ve played bet­ter than what I think our of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion has been, but at the same time we’ve got to be bet­ter.”

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