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Eskimos 5 Things: Green and Gold left feeling blue after bombing prime opportunity

So much for exploding to the top of the standings. The Edmonton Eskimos (6-4) fumbled away another opportunity to take the lead in what had been a tight West Division race with a 34-28 loss to a Winnipeg Blue Bombers (8-2) squad that came in with their backup quarterback and having lost their two previous road games. It was Edmonton’s chance to win by eight points to swap spots in the standings and prove the first loss was an exception. Only, it turned into the rule as the better team once again emerged victorious. Edmonton’s offence once again had no problem driving downfield, only to sputter out time and time again, while the defence watched the season-high 28 points they allowed against Winnipeg the first time around, get eclipsed by the Bombers offence once again on Friday. Here’s what we learned from a wet-and-wild game in front of Commonwealth Stadium’s largest crowd of the season, 34,217 strong:


So much for Fortress Commonwealth. The loss was Edmonton’s first of the season at home, where they had won all four of their previous games. And that’s not a good omen for a team that has had its fair share of struggles on the road going back to last season, finishing 2-7. And, while they are 2-3 in away games so far in 2019, their only successful trips have been against the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts — both teams that are securely locked in the basement of their respective divisions. And now, their home record looks suspect, too, considering the only divisional opponent they have beaten so far is the hapless Lions (albeit they have yet to play the Saskatchewan Roughriders). In fact, none of their six wins on the season have come against a team that had a winning record as of Friday’s game.


Just when it looked like the Eskimos finally had a handle on some troubling red-zone tendencies by scoring five touchdowns in seven visits inside the Argos’ 20 yard-line one week earlier, they ran smack dab into a Winnipeg wall. And not for the first time this season, either. After going 0-2 in the red zone against Winnipeg in Week 3, the Eskimos failed in all three return trips there in the rematch, with honourable mentions going to drives stalling on the 21 and 22 yard-lines that also resulted in field goals. That brings their season total touchdown efficiency in the red zone to 14-for-30. And that’s a bad look on an offence that has led the league in net yardage the entire way while spinning its tires in the middle of the pack when it comes to points scored.


But, hey, at least the Eskimos were able to reach the red zone. They almost couldn’t say the same for the end zone. Aside from a 75-yard touchdown reception by Tevaun Smith with 68 seconds remaining Friday, the Eskimos were kept out of the end zone in all previous 119 minutes of their two-game season series against the Bombers. With Sean Whyte replicating a club-record seven-for-seven performance between the uprights in both losses – yes, we’re counting the field goal kicked for field goal’s sake as time expired Friday – all but seven of their points in the combined 66-49 scores in the losses came from a distance.


Willie Hebert Jefferson III was a one-man gang on a Bombers defensive line that was supposed to be reeling from the loss of Jackson Jeffcoat and Craig Roe to injury. But the former Eskimos championship defensive end had himself a week, earning four tackles, two for a loss, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a knockdown. Oh, yeah. He also came up with three sacks, two of which were of the strip variety, separating Trevor Harris from the ball. And, get this, that doubled in one night the number of sacks the Eskimos gave up throughout the entire first half of the season. At this point, we’re just going to go ahead and reserve a spot on the ol’ mantle for Jefferson’s third-straight CFL all-star award.


Harris can’t be faulted for an interception that ended up going for six points the other way. His pass was deflected at the line by Alex McCallister before Marcus Rios nabbed it on its way to the turf with a clear runway to the end zone. After all, it was just the third interception thrown by Harris this season, which is saying a lot for the quarterback who leads the way in pass attempts, completions and passing yards, while boasting a CFL-best touchdown-to-interception ratio of 14:3. Of course, the only number of significance to the early Most Outstanding Player candidate — assuming the wins are there by the end — was the six points the Eskimos lost by on Friday. Harris finished the two-game season series against Winnipeg by completing 61 of 94 passes for 775 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while rushing eight times for 55 yards.


On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge