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JONES: Eskimos look horrible in 25-9 loss to Calgary in Labour Day Classic

Eleven games into the season and the Edmonton Eskimos still haven’t managed to be able to beat anybody.

For the eighth straight Labour Day the Eskimos bused back to Edmonton Monday evening having lost the Classic to the Calgary Stampeders — this time to even the all-time series at 29-29-1.

But this wasn’t about Labour Day or about the rivalry.

Edmonton’s 25-9 loss in this one, combined with their 34-28 defeat at home to the first place Winnipeg Blue Bombers, should have all the alarms ringing in Commonwealth Stadium for Chris Presson’s first day on the job as the new CEO for the club Tuesday morning.

This one wasn’t just another kick-in-the-crotch Edmonton Labour Day loss in Calgary.

This one represented a U-Turn in what three weeks ago looked like the Eskimos might be tracking toward becoming a host-the-Western-Final team that could find their way back to Calgary for the Grey Cup game in November.

Watching this team lose these past two games, it doesn’t look like they could find their way back down there with a road map, a GPS, a compass and directional arrows painted on the southbound lanes of the QEII.

They also appear to have lost their swagger, their belief, that togetherness they talked about and especially their identity.

That team you watched fail to score a touchdown and put their lowest number of points on the scoreboard this season at nine, looked a lot like the 9-9 team that missed the playoffs for only the 12th time in the last seven decades last year.

Throughout the front half of this season, the Eskimos saw themselves as an extraordinary football team in the making that just needed to start stringing a win streak together. They led the league in almost every major statistical category on both offence and defence.

Now they couldn’t look more ordinary as they’ve fallen to fourth place in the West with the return match against Calgary up next and a visit by 9-2 Hamilton to follow.

Until Monday, the Eskimos could point out that they hadn’t lost two games in a row all year. But now they have. They’ve lost their two biggest games of the season. And they’ve lost the season series to both the Blue Bombers and Stampeders.

It was a long weekend that set up in a way most of the 33,356 fans sitting in Mosaic Stadium in Regina had never experienced before. For the first time since 1954, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan went into the Labour Day weekend positioned first and second in the West.

And it was the first time in a dozen years that any of the 32,350 fans in McMahon Stadium in Calgary had ever watched an Eskimos-Stampeders Labour Day Classic when neither of the two teams had been positioned in one of the top two spots in the West.

When the smoke had cleared, or at least blown east and north for this weekend’s rematches, it’s the Eskimos that are every bit the surprise story where they sit as Saskatchewan at the top of the table.

Whatever the standings look like to you — with Winnipeg 8-3, Saskatchewan 7-3, Calgary 6-4 and Edmonton 6-5 — they’re actually worse for Edmonton. And remember they still have both games remaining to play against the Roughriders.

Three games ago everybody was excited about Edmonton’s defence. In the last two games it appears to have been exposed.

The Eskimos haven’t been able to stop the run. And as a result, it appears, it has solved the problem of having to live in fear of their pass rush.

For the second game in a row the Eskimos gave up 200–plus yards rushing. And the defence that boasted of 33 quarterback sacks on the season registered zero on Labour Day. None. Zip. Zilch. Bo Levi Mitchell returned after missing seven games due to injury and kept his jersey so clean he didn’t have to toss it in the hamper after the game.

Both Calgary and Winnipeg extended plays as a result of terrible tackling. And Edmonton had a rare return for a touchdown called back because of not one but two penalties on the play.

All season, quarterback Trevor Harris has been putting up numbers on offence that put him in line to break team records. Monday he managed 216. No touchdowns. One interception.

And what was once more of a curiosity than anything, the Eskimos problem in the so-called red zone is now a fully accredited crisis.

Harris managed to get the Eskimos inside the 20 only twice and failed to get them into the end zone on either occasion. Edmonton is now 14 for 32 in the red zone. That’s eighth in the league.

It looks like the coaches don’t have the plays and the players don’t have the belief. And Harris was off target again and again — something that makes no sense with his pass completion percentage.

Oh, and it’s about Harris.

He’s still never been able to beat Calgary.

tjones@postmedia.com

Source: montrealgazette.com