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55 Yard Line

Saturday’s 51-8 beatdown by the Tiger-Cats shows the Eskimos’ offensive futility

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Brandon Peguese and the Ticats took down Kerry Joseph and the Eskimos Saturday.

If your CFL team is in position for a playoff spot after 11 games, you usually don't feel too badly about them. That likely won't be the case for Edmonton Eskimos fans at the moment, though, as their 51-8 demolition by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Saturday has to be one of the most disappointing results of the CFL season. Yes, this wasn't quite as bad as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' 52-0 and 44-3 losses, but more was expected from the Eskimos, who were 5-5 heading into this and tied for third in the West Division. Although they had obvious issues heading into this, particularly on offence, they were expected to do much better against the struggling Tiger-Cats, who had lost five straight games and were last in 21 of the 25 defensive statistics tracked weekly by the league. Edmonton found way after way to blow this in hideous fashion, though, and although they'd still make the playoffs if the season ended today (their 5-6 record would give them a west-to-east crossover berth over now 4-7 Hamilton), it would be awfully hard to find anyone too optimistic about this team in the wake of this result.

To be fair to the Eskimos, they at least tried for the first half, which is more than you can say about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' effort Friday. In fact, for a while early on, Edmonton looked likely to take this. That wasn't thanks to any great performance on their part, but rather because of the still-very-present struggles of the Tiger-Cats (representing a key reason why the dancing in the streets of Hamilton should be kept in check for the moment). However, the Eskimos found ways to lose, particularly on a bizarre field goal attempt at the end of the first half that could have given them the lead. At first, they couldn't decide whether long-time kicker Grant Shaw or new acquisition Brody McKnight would take the kick, and when they eventually settled on McKnight, the line completely failed to block, allowing Tiger-Cats' defensive back Dee Webb to swoop in for the block and Hamilton receiver Bakari Grant to scoop the ball up for a game-changing touchdown return. The Tiger-Cats never looked back from there, putting up 35 uncontested points and dominating the game down the stretch.

Edmonton's biggest question going forward has to be the quarterback situation, and there's no easy answer there. Kerry Joseph may have thrown for 290 yards Saturday, but he wasn't terribly efficient (21 completions on 33 attempts, a decent-but-not great 63.7 per cent completion rate), and he was less effective than the statistics make him sound. He was replaced by Steven Jyles, who was worse (three completions on eight attempts for 37 yards with an interception), and he in turn was replaced by Matt Nichols, who completed just one of three passes before getting hurt and forcing the team to bring Joseph back in. There wasn't much support from the ground game (Hugh Charles had a reasonable 32 yards on five carries, but Jerome Messam only added eight yards on his five carries, although one was a short-yardage touchdown), but it's the passing game that's the real question mark in Edmonton. Although the Eskimos may still be in playoff position at the moment, they'll have to find a way to improve their aerial offence if they want to actually play in this postseason.

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