It's winning ugly

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

What we're dealing with here is a very, very good football team playing very bad.

Good enough to win. But very bad.

Normally, you'd want to trumpet a 5-1 start to a season. But not this team. And not in this town.

For the third week in a row the Edmonton Eskimos had to win ugly against inferior opposition.

They did - 36-30 over the now 0-5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats before 38,018 fans who know the real football season starts next week in Vancouver and continues back here with games against Montreal and Toronto leading into the Labour Day double dip against the Calgary Stampeders.

If this team doesn't get their spit together now, the standings are going to start looking significantly different.

Last night the Eskimos took the field with their helmets not screwed on straight and again took a plethora of penalties of the not-ready-to-play variety. Offsides galore. Six of them. Five holding. Two illegal procedure.

MOST PENALIZED

The Eskimos went into the game as the most penalized team in the league with 539 yards. They added another 100 last night.

That had a whole lot to do with allowing the Tiger-Cats to stay in the game.

"We just kept jumping offside,'' said rookie head coach Danny Maciocia.

"We gave them so many freebies.

"It was ridiculous. It's something we're going to sit down and address. The procedure calls. The holding calls. It was darn well demoralizing. I guarantee you we'll deal with it.''

The Eskimos gave a lot of lip service about how they weren't going to take the Tiger-Cats for granted, but the Tabbies offence, which is last in the league in almost every meaningful statistical category, scored 30 points on the defence, which led the league in almost every statistical category.

"They've been playing great all year. They had an off night, but they stuck together and stopped them when they had to,'' said quarterback Ricky Ray of preventing the Tiger-Cats from putting a final drive together to win in the last minute.

But the Eskimos keep sending Ray out there with one hand tied behind his back. This team doesn't have anybody remotely close to being a running back you can count on in second-and-three situations. They don't have a running back to keep the defence honest and to give the offensive line some wiggle room.

A MONTH AWAY

Decent NFL cuts are a month away and the degree of difficulty gets dialed up to a different degree now. One assumes the Eskimos aren't going to saddle Ray with a one-dimensional offence when the frost gets on the pumpkin. But there is every indication they're going to send him against the Lions without one next weekend.

Clearly the Eskimos are waiting for the NFL cuts. In fact they are waiting specifically on draft Dahrann Diedrick with the New York Giants.

Maciocia as much as admitted that last night.

"We'll see how it works out,'' he said of Diedrick at the Giants camp.

"Our identity has probably changed to pass first and run second. We need to be a little more balanced,'' said Maciocia.

But in the meantime, they're not doing Ray and his offensive line any favours.

"We need a mix,'' said Ray of that balance between the pass game and no running game to go to.

"We need to give the offensive line a chance. It's one of those things that keeps a defence off balance.''

Ray wasn't amused by the penalties.

"Penalties killed drives for us. It just killed drives.''

Nobody has been too amused with Sean Fleming's field goal kicking lately, either.

He's four for his last 11.

He missed one from 32 last night.

If Hamilton had managed to come back and score a final touchdown, that field goal miss would have cost the game.

THE TOWN CRIER

Five-and-one is great.

But in Edmonton, the town crier is not shouting "All's well.''

You can't be a very, very good football team if you don't play like one against the good teams.

The next dozen games are certainly going to be a different deal from the six pack they have put back to start this Canadian Football League season.


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