How Edmonton's defensive adjustments cooled down Ottawa's offence

WINNIPEG—At the start of Sunday's Grey Cup, everything was coming up Ottawa. After one initial poor throw, quarterback Henry Burris led a 61-yard touchdown drive. The Redblacks then got the ball back after Edmonton's Kendial Lawrence fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, and they promptly drove 40 yards for another touchdown (albeit with a missed convert), giving them a 13-0 lead. From then on, though, the Eskimos were able to adjust, especially on defence. The offence woke up too, but the defence held Ottawa to seven points the rest of the way (on two field goals and a rouge), and their fourth-quarter dominance gave them a 26-20 win. Linebacker J.C. Sherritt said after the first two touchdowns, the team adjusted their defensive looks to try to confuse Burris, who was reading the defence well early on.

"We just came to the sideline and made sure we didn't show the same look or show too early, cause he was doing a great job of identifying us," Sherritt said. "We handled it and moved forward."

Sherritt said it wasn't altering specific plays or coverages, but altering which coverages were called.

"We changed up our calls a little bit, but we didn't adjust anything," he said. "We still played our calls, we just called a little different ones."

Ottawa presented a difficult opponent for the Eskimos thanks to their stellar receiving corps; Chris Williams, Greg Ellingson, Ernest Jackson and Brad Sinopoli all passed the 1,000-yard mark this year. Sherrit said the key there was working together as a defensive unit and sticking to assignments.

"We just played together," he said. "We knew if we could handle it early, they were going to formation us and do stuff like that, but we found a way and just adjusted and played together like we always do."

Defensive halfback Aaron Grymes said the Redblacks did well early, but the Edmonton defence was able to adapt to their plan and provide time for the offence to warm up.

"They came out with a good game plan and caught us off guard, but we made some adjustments and they didn't even do anything after that," he said. "It's a great offence, they were getting yards, they were moving the ball, but we just knew if we held them to field goals our offence would rally back. Our offence has been doing that for the past four, five games, getting yards, and that's what they did, they came back and they won the game for us."

Grymes said Ottawa's skilled receivers were tough, but the Eskimos were able to limit the damage, especially after their adjustments.

"We had a good game plan for them," he said. "I don't think we shut them down, but we contained them. We did manage to keep them out of the end zone, and our offence went out there and had our backs when we got ourselves in a hole early."

He said their key change was stopping Ottawa's play-action and short-passing game.

"We realized what they were hitting us with, the play-action passes, the switch releases," he said. "We got our defence to play for those kinds of things, and the next thing you know, we got an interception and back-to-back sacks and started making plays. The adjustments we made, man, that's a big thank you to the coaches for seeing that early and getting us out of that slump."

Indeed, and those adjustments were a big reason why it was the Eskimos lifting the Grey Cup at the end of the night.