Esks hot, Lions not

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:14 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos are hot . The B.C. Lions are not. Nothing was settled at Commonwealth Stadium last night except that. But that's not nothing.

"That's three in a row. That's all that matters. That's all that counts,'' said Eskimos' rookie coach Danny Maciocia.

It's not just that the Eskimos are now on the up escalator. B.C. didn't get off the down escalator. The Lions have now lost five of the last six, two of them here.

It was a 22-19 Edmonton win on the last play of the game in which Sean Fleming completed his regular-season run from the outhouse to the penthouse. But on a bigger picture, it left arguably the two top teams in the CFL going in different directions.

'I'D HAVE LOOKED AT YOU A LITTLE CROOKED'

"If you told me five weeks ago we'd go into the last week of the season and still be able to finish first, I'd have looked at you a little crooked,'' said Maciocia.

Wasn't it just yesterday that the Lions came here 11-0 and the Eskimos were 7-5?

They could both end up 12-6. And with the Eskimos making it two-of-three between the two teams last night, Edmonton would finish first.

Other than their ugliest effort of the season in losing to Hamilton, Danny Maciocia's team can now tell itself they are playing their best football at the right time of the season and doing it against top teams. They're 4-1 in their last five with two wins over the Lions, one in Toronto and the other against Saskatchewan.

Oh, the Eskimos could still finish anywhere from first to third. But however it turns out, if they beat the Stampeders in Calgary next Sunday, they'll have either the CFL West final or semi at home and be able to tell themselves they won their last games against every team they could possibly play in the post-season - B.C., Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Saskatchewan!

Of course, should they lose to Calgary next Sunday they could still finish third and have to play the West semi in McMahon Stadium. Unless Calgary loses in Winnipeg Sunday. But all that is another story.

'ABSOLUTELY WILD'

"That last weekend is going to be absolutely wild,'' said Maciocia. "We're the last game on the Sunday. We get to see how it will all unfold in front of us.''

This was a night to allow Maciocia's much-maligned men to trumpet. They didn't dominate. The first downs were 19-17 Edmonton and the total offence 320 to 299 B.C. But at this stage of the season, it's all about W's and L's and how you've got things going into the post season.

"The defence was awesome,'' said quarterback Ricky Ray. "Sean was great. It's great to see him with his confidence back. We still have to pick it up a bit on offence. We're still kicking a lot of field goals. But we're putting a good little run together at exactly the time you want to put a run together.''

While some may point to beating the Lions here when they came in at 11-0, most look at The Trade Maciocia made to bring Dan Comiskey and Troy Davis from Hamilton.

"Every since that trade, we've been a better team,'' said Bruce Beaton.

The Eskimos used Davis on the first play to open with a first down and pretty much forgot about him until the final minute when they needed to put Fleming in position to win it. He did.

But the Eskimos also started playing smart football three games ago. And that's been part of the turnaround, too.

The Lions took 117 yards in penalties and the Eskimos kept it down again this game.

Donny Brady didn't take a penalty when it mattered most against Geroy Simon deep in Eskimos territory late in the game. Simon punched Brady. He took the punch. Out came the flag. That may have swung the game before Fleming swung his leg for the win.

"They always talk about me being a dirty guy. But I'm out to prove I'm a mature person, that I'm a better human being. He threw the first punch and I didn't throw nothin','' said Brady.

Maciocia said he was proud of his player.

"That was huge. It pushed them back. The last three weeks, we have really cut down our penalties,'' said the coach of the season-long bugaboo.

"We stopped taking offside penalties when I decided to start practice all over everytime we took an offside. I should have done that on Week 1,'' he added.

It's all in the difference between winning and losing. All they have to do to win the Grey Cup now is not lose again.


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