Can defence stop slide?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

The defence has to do it.

If the defence doesn't do it, it's not going to get done for the Edmonton Eskimos this fractured football season.

"We have to go out and play the next three games as well as we've played all year. Nothing else is going to be acceptable," says defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall.

The Eskimos went back to work yesterday and while there are challenges all over the roster for the defending Grey Cup champions, it gets back to the old staple: Defence wins football games.

"We have to step up and play to the best of our abilities and accept the challenge to turn this team around," says the coach.

The defence is the last group you'd point fingers at when it comes to the Eskimos this season.

When it comes to being guilty, most would list the offence and special teams ahead of the defence when it comes to being most guilty.

INDECENT EXPOSURE

But the thing is, they were supposed to be dominant. They've seldom been better than decent. And lately it's been indecent exposure.

They're going to have to be damn near dominant to get the Eskimos back in the playoffs for a 33rd consecutive season, much less in a position to do anything should they happen to get there.

Admittedly they've had their share of stuff go wrong on the defensive side of the ball this year.

Like Darrel Crutchfield being injured in Game 1 and the stubborn stupidity to try get away with Fabian Burke for two and a half games. That had a lot to do with the first three-game losing streak of the season.

Steve Charbonneau was lost to the defensive line for the year.

Dorian Boose, who last year had people thinking he was the second coming of Dave Fennell, came back out of shape and ended up out of a job. And then Donny Brady gets stabbed outside of a nightclub.

Crutchfield should be back for this one.

Having had a bit of a break, a long week leading into the Thanksgiving game Monday won't hurt when it comes to other hurts.

"We've had a couple guys banged up," said Marshall.

"Singor Mobley has been fighting through some things that would have kept most guys out of games," he said of a wonky knee.

But this isn't a team which made the playoffs for 32 consecutive seasons using excuses.

There are some rather sobering statistics developing from the current skid, which is three games and counting going into Monday's Thanksgiving game against the 12-2 Montreal Alouettes.

- No team in the league has given up more first downs than the Eskimos.

- Only Toronto has given up more touchdowns.

- Only Ottawa and Winnipeg have given up more total offence.

- Only Ottawa has given up more completed passes.

The Eskimos can point to the scoreboard and say that they're fourth in points against.

Bend-don't-break is one thing. But when you have an offence that is sputtering and stuttering, bend translates into poor field position. Jason Maas & Co. need short fields to work with right now, not long ones.

In defence of the defence, some might point out that they spend a lot of time on the field.

There's a cure for that. It's called two-and-out.

"Our biggest challenge is to be consistent for 60 minutes," says Marshall.

"We need to do consistently good things. We've shot ourselves in the foot too many times, had too many missed tackles, missed coverages and bad penalties - too much of all that for this late in the season.

'WE NEED TO MAKE PLAYS'

"We need to make plays. We've had too many missed opportunities. We need to find a way to make a play."

Not guilty has been Malcolm Frank. The Eskimos have scored 437 points this season. Frank has personally provided 30 of those with his league-record five interceptions returned for touchdowns. That's 35 if you count the converts.

The big thing is to put the offence in good field position and to be able score first.

In the last two losses, the mess the Eskimos made at home against the Toronto Argos and the abomination in Hamilton last weekend, the offence was working with long fields most of the night and were behind all game.

"Any game where you get off to a good start, you get positive feelings going," said Marshall. "We need positive feelings. We need to feel good about something. Frustrations build up when it's an uphill battle all night."

This team has been chasing the season since losing the lid-lifter to the Alouettes to open the season in Montreal. The Eskimos don't need to be chasing any more games.


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