MacKinnon: Eskimos must win convincingly
Need to soundly beat Stampeders in regular-season finale to enter post-season with even a shred of credibility after up-and-down 2012 campaign
Edmonton Eskimo Fred Stamps practices at Commonwealth Stadium on October 31, 2012 in Edmonton.
Photograph by: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - It’s Nov. 2, it’s Game 18 and the Edmonton Eskimos were saying Thursday they were in control of their CFL playoff destiny.
Which was partly true and partly good news, but mostly an unflattering indictment of an up-and-down, underachieving season for a team that went 11-7 in 2011, played host to a playoff game for the first time since 2004 and came within one victory of a berth in the Grey Cup.
Thanks to the Toronto Argonauts 43-40 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night, the Eskimos are in the playoffs whether they win or lose against
Of course, ‘No need to win, we’re in’ lacks a certain something as a rallying cry.
Now, it’s win and they wind up with an 8-10 regular-season won-lost record, no badge of honour, post-season or no post-season.
Even as workmen were blowing the snow off the shiny, newly installed, lower-bowl seats at Commonwealth
Stadium, the Eskimos insisted their focus was on their game plan, on their team, on their objective of finishing with a solid performance against their provincial rivals.
You know, the better to enter the playoffs with some winning momentum.
“As a player, you live for these games,” said middle linebacker J.C. Sherritt, who could set a CFL record for most tackles in one season tonight. “As a competitor, this is what you dream about, a game with everything on the line, bad weather, hopefully.”
“Sure, why not? It just adds more to it. As a defender, the worse conditions, the better.”
Even though they don’t need a victory, the Eskimos must win convincingly tonight to enter the post-season with a shred of credibility.
Win and they pull level with Saskatchewan and keep alive the chance of finishing third in the West Division.
For that to happen, they’d also need the Roughriders to lose to the Lions in Vancouver on Saturday. Since the Eskimos won the season series against the Riders, Edmonton would claim third place on the tiebreaker.
So, you see, between the Tiger-Cats losing and the business of Saskatchewan playing B.C., the Eskimos’ destiny was not entirely in their own hands, after all.
Which is curious, because their destiny was totally in their own hands in Games 1 through 17, without exception.
Their destiny was in their control in Calgary in the Labour Day Classic, when a game-ending field goal attempt sailed wide and the Stampeders won 31-30.
It was in their hands in the rematch when a field-goal attempt drilled the right upright and the Stampeders won again 20-18.
They were in control of their destiny in a 23-22 loss to
Winnipeg when a last-minute Steven Jyles fumble in Blue Bombers territory wiped out any chance of a late score to win the game.
They let their destiny slip through their fingers in a 19-18 loss to B.C., mostly by failing to mount a credible offensive attack, wasting a splendid performance by their defence.
And, yes, they controlled their own destiny in their most recent consecutive losses, a 39-19 smackdown in B.C. when they lost to a backup quarterback, and when an exciting fourth-quarter rally fell short in a 27-25 squeaker in Montreal against the home-and-playoff-dry Alouettes.
A victory in any one of those games, all other things being equal, and the Eskimos already would have clinched a playoff spot. They didn’t, but they’re in anyway. So, Round 4 of this season’s Battle of Alberta is about finishing strongly for the home fans and for momentum, to show themselves, even, they summon a superior performance on demand.
Which, by the way, is something they have not done all season.
“You can’t ask for anything better on the football field,” said quarterback Kerry Joseph, who started but did not finish the game for Edmonton against Montreal last week. “The way we look at it, we’ve got to win, regardless.
“We’ve got to win, but it’s a football game and you can’t put too much pressure on yourself. I think we have prepared well enough this week to just go out and have fun and play the game. And when you can do that, and relax a little bit and play, it’ll take care of itself.”
The Eskimos were loose and fun-loving in the locker-room Thursday. In fact, they’ve been a loose, confident bunch all season. Tension is not their problem, especially after Thursday night’s outcome.
No, their issue will be finding a way to win a game that matters, at least somewhat. This season, their pattern — their destiny, if you will — has been finding novel ways to lose.
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