Esks blow their chance to clinch playoff spot
It was a chance for Jason Maas’ Edmonton Eskimos to stand up and make a case for themselves to be a team of substance, a team worthy of building belief heading toward the playoffs.
But last night they fell flat on their collective faces in an empty, inept effort that illustrated the extent this team has come unravelled after an exceptional start to the season in almost every statistical category.
The Eskimos were exposed by the now 12-3 league-pleading Hamilton Tiger-cats 42-12 clinching first place and equaling a franchise record for regular season victories while stretching their home record to 7-0 in their first home game since Labour Day, 32-days earlier.
Not only did Edmonton lose by the embarrassing margin of 30 points, it looks like the Eskimos team that lost quarterback Trevor Harris to injury while enjoying a Most Outstanding Player sort of season now appears to have lost 1,000-yard running back C.J. Gable and star receiver Greg Ellingson.
The last time the Eskimos played the Tiger-cats they gave up 197 yards passing in the first quarter and were down 24-0 early only to tie it up 27-27 and lose it on the last play of the game with a field goal that bounced in off the uprights.
The thought was that if they showed up and didn’t spot Hamilton two-dozen points it would be a different ball game.
They Eskimos were down by 16 at the half in this one, And this time there was no comeback and no finish decided by the width of a goal post.
This game the Eskimos, giving up their usual 108yards penalties with quarterback Logan Kilgore throwing three more interceptions to make 17th career interceptions six touchdown passes, were entirely outplayed and outclassed.
This was the thing. While there are still the home-and-home Saskatchewan games to end the schedule to gain some belief for hopes in the post-season and while Harris is expected to be back for them and the post season, this was the ultimate opportunity.
The Eskimos are all but guaranteed to be the 10th team to go East as a crossover club in the Eastern Division playoffs and no team has yet to emerge and get to the Grey Cup including the Eskimos on three previous tries including 2008 when they lost the final 36-26 in Montreal.
What made this game compelling from an Edmonton perspective was not only that they had yet to beat any team that had a winning record when they played them but beating the Tigercats in Hamilton would have changed everything.
Not only are the Tabbies the top team in the entire league but the team the Eskimos would have to beat, in Hamilton, in the Eastern Final should they manage to defeat the Alouettes in Montreal in the semifinal. And remember Edmonton lost their game on Mount Royal 20-10.
Being a two-game road trip that started in Ottawa and with the Eskimos immediately locating in Hamilton to spend the entire week that replicated the playoff week that’s ahead.
The Eskimos lost the 2008 Eastern Final 36-26 in Montreal and the 2017 Eastern Final 35-23 in Ottawa after choosing to fly home and turn around and fly back across the country again to play the final.
This time the expectation is that they’d stay down East.
Not that it’s an absolute lock that the Eskimos are in the playoffs or the crossover.
A win would have eliminated the B.C. Lions, pre-season favourites of many so-called experts after GM Ed Hervey convinced Mike Reilly and several Eskimos to join him in Vancouver in free agency, from playoff contention.
The Lions are in Edmonton next Saturday prior to their third and final week prior to the Oct. 26 visit by the Roughriders.
Calgary, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg headed into the weekend all tied for first with 18 points and the Stampeders and Roughriders having four games to play to Winnipeg’s three. The Eskimos who remain back with 14 points and now with a losing record, lost all three to Calgary and both to Winnipeg so would any tie at the end of the season in the standings. Edmonton has yet to play Saskatchewan.
But after that exhibition there aren’t likely many fans in Edmonton thinking about the mathematical possibilities.
This is a football team that lost 28-21 and 34-28 to Winnipeg, were beaten 24-18, 25-9 and 33-17 by Calgary and 30-27 and 42-12 by Hamilton.
In seven games against the top teams they’ve lost all seven and did so by a combined 81 points.
They aren’t in the same league.
A pass intended for Eskimos’ wide receiver Greg Ellingson is knocked away by Tiger-cats’ defensive back Frankie Williams during the second-half CFL action in Hamilton, Ont., on Friday.