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Edmonton Eskimos win by losing, earn crossover, but they sure made it tough

Quincy Butler and the Stamps brought down Fred Stamps and the Esks Friday.The Edmonton Eskimos could have secured themselves an easier playoff date with a loss to Calgary Friday, and they eventually got it, but boy, did they ever make it difficult on themselves. The Eskimos put up a great fight behind the arm of backup quarterback Matt Nichols and the legs of backup running back Cory Boyd, and they almost took the Stampeders down, but wound up losing 30-27 thanks to a bizarre late sequence of events that included a botched field goal hold, an interception nullified by penalty, a fumble nullified by video review and a missed field goal nullified by their own attempt to ice Calgary kicker Rene Paredes. If any of those events had turned out slightly differently, the Eskimos would be 8-10 and still in contention to finish third in the West. Instead, they're 7-11 and in the West basement, but get to cross to the weak East Division and face the less-formidable Toronto Argonauts.

On the one hand, there were plenty of good signs here for the Eskimos. Boyd had his best game in green and gold, running eight times for 66 yards and a touchdown and putting himself firmly in the mix for touches against his old team next week, while Nichols completed 18 of 30 passes (60 per cent) for 341 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. That may not be enough to move him past Kerry Joseph for the starting job, but he could be an option off the bench if Joseph struggles, and he may receive a further look next season. Plenty of Eskimos receivers stepped up as well, with Fred Stamps hauling in six catches for 152 yards (including an insanely-acrobatic play where he went up against double coverage and stole the ball from a defender) and a touchdown and Cary Koch adding 63 yards and a touchdown on just two catches, and linebacker J.C. Sherritt broke the CFL record for single-season tackles by recording his 130th right at the end of the game (interestingly enough, he wouldn't have done so if either the interception or the fumble had stood). There are numerous aspects of this one the Eskimos can feel good about, as they played well; in fact, they almost played too well and hurt themselves in the process.

Meanwhile, this was also an impressive showing from the Stampeders, but it's one that could hurt their own playoff hopes. With the victory, they've ensured they'll face Saskatchewan next week, and heading into this week, the Roughriders were better than the Eskimos in record (8-9 versus 7-10), point differential (+59 to -28), yards of offence per game (355.9 to 333.0), offensive yards allowed per game (332.7 to 413.4) and many other stats. In fact, heading into this week, the Eskimos had both the league's worst offence and defence by offensive yards recorded/conceded. Calgary wasn't in top form here, but they had nothing on the line and still pulled off a road win. At home against the Eskimos, they'd have been heavy favourites. Against the Riders? They'll still likely be favoured, but it looks like it will be a tougher matchup.

This was still an enjoyable game with some excellent football on display, and it was a notable one as well, as two great records were set. Jon Cornish achieved the CFL's top single-season Canadian rushing performance, breaking Normie Kwong's 56-year old record of 1,437 yards, and that's notable; while Kwong racked up his totals in a shorter schedule, he also did so in an environment that emphasized the run more. Neither season's necessarily better, but Cornish has now put up a performance that's certainly up there with Kwong's. Meanwhile, Sherritt's tackle record itself is remarkable; he passed the 129 another great player, the Argonauts' Calvin Tiggle, recorded in 1994. This could have been a dull game, but it instead was an entertaining contest where both teams played to win, and you can bet the league and TSN are happy about that. Still, that doesn't shake the sense that the winning team actually lost in the long run and the losing team actually won. To prevent that from becoming a bigger issue down the road when a team actually starts employing statistics and game theory, the league needs to change its rules to reward victors, not the vanquished. At the moment, it's gloria victis.

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