CFL Pass

Eskimos 5 Things: Another loss to Calgary continues tumble in standings

It’s become painfully obvious by now that when the moment is too big for the Edmonton Eskimos, instead of rising to the occasion they become a bunch of bystanders, as was the case in Saturday’s Labour Day Rematch. The stage doesn’t get any bigger for a regular-season home game, yet the Eskimos ensemble performed more like a B-movie cast compared to the star power of the Calgary Stampeders, who used the Labour Day back-to-backs to not only leapfrog their northern rivals in the standings, but also sweep the three-game season series. So much for a home playoff game once again this year. Mathematically, it COULD still happen, but the fourth-place Eskimos have fallen to .500 (6-6) for the first time this season, and with six games to go, they are getting left behind in a West Division where they have yet to defeat anyone ahead of them. And both the Stampeders (7-4) and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-3) hold the tiebreaker advantage over them. But instead of looking up in the standings, maybe the Eskimos should be looking over to an East Division crossover as their likely playoff path. Of course, that would be a shame for a squad with so many promising pieces, who just can’t seem to make it all fit together, for one reason or another. Here is what we learned in their 33-17 loss in the rivalry rematch:

1. (UN)PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

Why are two Eskimos defensive teammates getting into a pushing and shoving match with each other on the field, in between plays, in front of the CFL’s biggest crowd of the season during a game that was nationally televised? It could just be a one-off, sure. But we can’t help but wonder if the heated exchange between linebacker Vontae Diggs and defensive back Josh Johnson, which required a teammate to intervene before de-escalating, was symptomatic of something deeper, uglier and even more problematic with this team. And when you’ve got an entire sideline full of red-clad opponents those 40,000 fans in the stands would like nothing more than to see the Eskimos finally take out some aggression against for once this season, it just doesn’t make sense.

2. IN THE RED

After having their red-zone performances excruciatingly analyzed, the Eskimos simply went out and put the ball in the end zone on their first visit inside Calgary’s 20-yard line Saturday. An interception by coverage linebacker Don Unamba, which was the first of three thrown by Bo Levi Mitchell, set the Eskimos up on the doorstep. And a five-yard touchdown catch by Tevaun Smith — who must be given full props for his Bianca Andreescu-like celebration — kicked down the door to take an early lead. Unfortunately, it would be their only lead of the game.

3. OFFENCE UNARMED

Of course, it didn’t help the Eskimos lost starting quarterback Trevor Harris shortly after that first touchdown. It turns out the league-leading passer has been dealing with an issue with his throwing arm for a few weeks now, and it got to the point Saturday where it was affecting how he threw the ball. It’s not clear how severe the injury is or how much longer it will keep him out following a scheduled bye this week, if at all. In the meantime, the Eskimos turned to backup Logan Kilgore, who took his first in-game snaps of the season. Yes, he threw a pick-six, but he also went one-for-two in the red zone, capping a 10-play, 83-yard drive with a QB sneak.

4. PENALTY REGRESS

After putting together their most disciplined outings of the season in their two previous games, the Eskimos sank right back into the rut that has made them the most penalized team in the league all season, with double-digit flags costing them triple-digit yards Saturday. And while they have been able to overcome their self-imposed difficulties against weaker opponents, they just can’t seem to get any momentum going against top-tiered teams. After jumping to an early lead with seven points off a turnover, the Eskimos finally had Bo Levi Mitchell sacked on second down, only to suffer a one-two punch of roughing the passer and objectionable conduct on the play. Instead of punting, Calgary earned points on the drive and it was all the push-start they needed. That’s two games now the Eskimos, who led the league all year in sacks, couldn’t track down the quarterback as they are now tied for third overall in that department.

5. BROKEN RECORD

Up to this point, the up-and-down Eskimos had managed to hold a winning record all season long. But that changed with back-to-back losses to the rival Stampeders, which knocked them down to 6-6 in a West Division where everyone else but the downright deplorable B.C. Lions — whose lone victory on the season comes with an asterisk — has more wins than losses. And we saw last year what a .500 record can get you in the West, as the Eskimos missed out on playoffs in a season where Edmonton hosted the Grey Cup final. In the off-season, general manager Brock Sunderland summed up his take on having a .500 record: “When you’re 9-9 and you’re not where you want to be, changes are going to happen. And the way you never have to worry about that is you win more.” With the Lions, Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa Redblacks all but throwing in the towel with as many wins between them as Edmonton through two-thirds of the season, there is no way the Eskimos miss playoffs again … right?

Email: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Source: torontosun.com