MacKinnon: ‘This is our shot’ — Reed
Eskimos head coach knows qualifying for CFL’s six-team post-season is tricky business, so winning Sunday to guarantee at least a crossover berth to East Division semifinal will take off pressure in final game of regular season
EDMONTON - If it’s true that you win championships with defence, then the Edmonton Eskimos could be one nasty playoff team.
Their defence, which is getting healthy just as the regular season is winding down, is superb. It could be even better with the possible return of rush end Marcus Howard from a hamstring injury.
The tricky part will be qualifying for the CFL’s six-team post-season.
The simplest way, of course, is for them to win on Sunday in Montreal against the Alouettes, an outcome that would guarantee the Eskimos the crossover berth to the East Division semifinal, at minimum.
The reality is, they just need one more victory to qualify. Or, one loss apiece by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers between now and season’s end, and the Eskimos will be in.
The Eskimos also still have a chance to finish third in the West Division. It doesn’t come down to winning on Sunday, but it might as well, as far as head coach Kavis Reed is concerned.
“We can’t think about two shots (chances),” Reed said. “I think that’s the wrong approach.
“This is our shot. We have to approach it with that sense of urgency because it’s always difficult when you have to win a football game to be able to go out and focus properly.
“With the buffer that we have, it is this game; we’re putting all our eggs in this game.”
Lovely. Except the 7-9 Eskimos are on a four-game losing streak at Montreal’s Percival Molson Stadium, are 2-4 in their last six games there and 3-7 in their last 10 games at that picturesque park on the eastern slope of Mount Royal.
The last time the Eskimos won in Montreal was Sept. 23, 2007, when they beat Montreal 16-10. The losses there in recent years have been blowouts — 27-4 in 2011; 31-14 in 2010; 50-16 in ’09; 40-4 in ’08.
In theory, the Alouettes have nothing to play for, having clinched home-field advantage in the Eastern Final. But then, they had that spot clinched last weekend before they went out and beat the Roughriders in Saskatchewan. It’s likely the Alouettes, who are 6-2 at Molson Stadium this season, will want to close out their home schedule on a winning note.
On the other hand, the Eskimos, a 2-6 road team so far this season, will have to play out of character to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday.
Oh, and the Alouettes came off their bye week sitting at 3-3 back on Aug. 17, sashayed into Commonwealth Stadium and delivered a 38-25 wet fish to the face of an Eskimos team that was 4-2 at the time and full measure for it.
“They came off their bye week,” said Eskimos quarterback Kerry Joseph, who engineered convincing Eskimos victories over Hamilton and Saskatchewan before the club was dealt a 39-19 reality check in B.C. against the Lions. “You give a guy like (Alouettes head coach Marc) Trestman and those guys a lot of time to prepare and they came with a good game plan and they came into our house and took one away from us.”
Not only that, the Alouettes were up 28-0 in that one by the mid-point of the second quarter.
“We started that game slowly,” said Eskimos defensive halfback Chris Thompson. “I believe they only had 10 points in the second half.
“We definitely can’t start the game sluggish and lackadaisical. We’ve got to come out firing and give our offence good field position.”
Reed reckons the Eskimos have matured significantly since that mid-August defeat, learned from mistakes made in that outing.
“We understand how potent that Montreal offence is and how much improved that defence is from the start of the year,” Reed said. “If we play a focused football game, from start to finish, I think we’ll have a chance.’
Joseph, who arrived here late in 2010 and didn’t start last year and only took the offensive reins a few weeks ago, is not burdened with the Eskimos history of losing in Montreal, which could be a plus.
“If you carry that doubt into there, that lingers,” Joseph said. “Our attitude has to be positive, thinking we can go in there and win this football game.
“It’s a good place to play. I think you just have to get momentum on your side. You can’t fall behind against those guys. You have to make them play from behind because they’re at home, they have a great crowd.
“They’re a great home team.”
Simple as the win-and-you’re-in equation is, if the Eskimos win on Sunday, they will have qualified for the post-season the hard way.
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