What's with these guys?

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Jason Maas has had trouble holding onto the football lately. (Edmonton...

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Jason Maas has had trouble holding onto the football lately. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

They're an enigma wrapped in a riddle with no middle ground.

As a result, the defending Grey Cup champion Edmonton Eskimos have either looked like world beaters or stunk the joint out this season.

Manhandling the Montreal Alouettes Thanksgiving Day, the Green and Gold appeared to be a serious threat to repeat as champs.

But in the wake of Sunday's 40-16 shellacking by the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Taylor Field, only the most optimistic Esks supporters would wager on the squad winning back-to-back Grey Cups.

"I thought we were ready to play but we just didn't execute," said slotback Terry Vaughn. "Sometimes we were offside. Sometimes we couldn't get the centre-quarterback exchange. You name it, we did. We did it all."

Surrendering 31 unanswered points in the second quarter spelled the end of the line for the Green and Gold Sunday.

Down 40-2 after three quarters, there wasn't much to play for but pride and a chance to whittle away at the aggregate point differential to ensure themselves of winning any potential tie-breaker with Saskatchewan.

"At halftime we were down quite a bit and there was two choices: lay down and call it a day or just try to battle back and try to show at least some pride," said Esks kicker Sean Fleming.

BATTLED ALL DAY

"We did that. The defence battled all day but you're not going to win too many games when you have as many two and outs as we did.

"We needed to score points and we were doing that late in the game. But for us, it was important for us to set a goal for ourselves at halftime and make it a little more interesting.

"And we did. That's the one positive you can take out of it. We still got our butts kicked."

When the Esks have been good, they've been very, very good.

And when they've struggled, they've flat-out been awful. There's been blown coverages by the defence and special teams, foolish penalties, dropped passes, fumbles and whole boatload of bumbles.

All of which added up to a three-game losing skid followed by a trio of wins, a two-game slump followed by four consecutive victories, another three-game streak of futility, and a split of their last two games.

The only consistency the Green and Gold have demonstrated is a real knack for being inconsistent.

"We haven't been a consistent football team," offered Vaughn. "I play on the offensive side of the ball, so we haven't been consistent offensively either.

"I guess it could be due to a lot of things. But what it comes right down to is we're just not executing. That's my fault. Ed (Hervey's) fault. The receivers' fault. The quarterback's fault. The linemen's fault.

"It's all our faults because we're on the offensive side of the ball and we're supposed to score points. For the offensive that we have, to only put up 16 points (Sunday) that's not good."

With four losses in their last five starts and a less-than-impressive 2-7-0 road record, the last place the Esks want to be lining up for all their playoff games is in enemy ball parks.

McMahon Stadium in Calgary and Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium are the only two places the Esks have mustered road wins this season.

Within the friendly confines of Commonwealth Stadium, the champs haven't been invincible but with a 6-2-0 log they've won more than they've lost.

Only the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts have left Commonwealth with two points this year.

TWO CUP WINNERS

Fleming has played on two Cup winners over the course of his 13-year career with the Esks.

He's been on some so-so teams and some gritty teams but Fleming is having trouble figuring out just what kind of team the current Esks club is.

"It's a weird team, I don't really know where our identity is," offered the kicker.

"I don't know what type of team we are. But we're certainly inconsistent right now.

"We need to score points and we need to move the ball. We can't put that much pressure on the defence. We've got the weapons to do it, we just didn't put in a solid effort Sunday. Hopefully, we can do that against Winnipeg."

The Esks have only one regular season game remaining which means they're running out of time to get their collective act together.

Following Sunday's tilt the Esks have the bye the final week of the 2004 campaign.

However, by the time the bye week rolls around Edmonton's post-season fate could be in another team's hands. And a loss to Winnipeg this week would set the stage for that scenario.

"We've just got to go back in and start up again and just keep working hard and believing," said defensive back Donny Brady.

"I believe. I'm not giving up and I know my teammates aren't giving up. I know my teammates aren't giving up either. We'll come around."


Videos

Photos