EDMONTON - The Edmonton Eskimos were one yard away from what would have been an outstanding come-from-behind victory on Thursday at Montreal.
The defence had made a gutsy goal-line stand, capped off by a thundering hit from linebacker Damaso Munoz, forcing the Alouettes to kick a field goal and keep the Eskimos within five points with one minute remaining.
Quarterback Mike Reilly, who struggled earlier in the game, bounced back with two second-half touchdowns and started the potential game-winning drive at the Eskimos’ 35-yard line.
Reilly looked calm and poised, completing four consecutive passes to Nate Cooehoorn, Fred Stamps, Stamps and Marcus Henry in only 32 seconds to march the Eskimos to the Alouettes’ five.
On first-and-goal, running back John White crashed and banged four yards to the one, then offensive co-ordinator Doug Sams made a call that never should have been made.
The Eskimos were on the one-yard line, but Sams elected to call a running play with his quarterback in the shotgun formation. Are you kidding me? It defied logic. He called a play that would force his running back to gain six yards, when the Eskimos only needed one to win the game.
White was tackled for a loss of two yards and the Eskimos’ record dropped to 1-4.
Why not run a quarterback sneak? The Eskimos have been a perfect three-for-three with third-string pivot Kerry Joseph on sneaks this season — twice on July 13 against the B.C. Lions and again for a touchdown on July 20 at BC Place.
Many fans wondered why White’s first carry wasn’t reviewed by the officials, and that is a valid question, but the TV replay clearly showed White wasn’t in the end zone. The previous play and the non-review should not have impacted Sams’ decision.
The Eskimos offensive line is built for short-yardage situations. Thaddeus Coleman is six-foot-eight, 308 pounds; Matt O’Donnell is six-11, 340; Gord Hinse is six-four, 307; Simeon Rottier is six-six, 295; and Brandon Curry is six-six, 320. If the Eskimos went to their jumbo package, six-foot-eight, 315-pound Brian Ramsey would also have been on the field.
O-linemen live for plays that come down to shear force, guts and determination, yet Edmonton’s offensive co-ordinator never gave them a chance to win the game with a quarterback sneak.
The perplexing and scary part is Sams called essentially the same play the previous week at BC Place and the Eskimos lost three yards. The Eskimos were down 24-10, but had marched to the Lions’ five-yard line. It was second down with less than a yard to go, and rather than call a sneak, they ran a delayed draw to Hugh Charles. He lost three yards and the Esks settled for a field goal.
That’s two head-scratching calls two weeks in a row, but the final play in Montreal was the worst coaching decision I’ve seen in Edmonton since the Eskimos defence blitzed Kevin Glenn and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers rather than play prevent defence and gave up a 100-yard pass-and-run touchdown to Milt Stegall for a come-from-behind win on the final play of the game in 2006.
Sams was the offensive co-ordinator in Hamilton last year, and the Tiger-Cats had the best offence in the league. He’s proven he can call the right plays and he has a good football mind, but so far this season, he’s made the wrong call at crucial times.
Edmonton head coach Kavis Reed can state publicly that the missed calls are on him, and to some extent they are because he hires his coaching staff, but Sams is in charge of calling the plays and on Thursday evening he went against the odds and came up short.
In football, coaches talk about how the game usually comes down to four or five plays, but on Thursday night it was one call that changed the outcome of the game. If the Eskimos want to make the playoffs, Sams and his offence can’t afford a third strike.
You can listen to Gregor weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the TEAM 1260 and read him at oilersnation.com
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