Method to the madness

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

The match defence is unconventional for good reason.

Few teams can make it work, in large part because it's darn near impossible to explain and not leave the listener utterly dumbfounded and totally confused.

The Toronto Argonauts have found a way to make it work.

Now it's up to the Edmonton Eskimos to figure out how to break it before the two teams clash at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.

First, the Esks need to get a grip on what they're facing.

"It's really zone, with man-to-man concepts," explained Esks receiver Kwame Cavil, who saw plenty of the match when he was with the Montreal Alouettes.

"If I go from one side to the other on a pattern, it may look like one guy is covering, but really a guy way over there is covering. That's how it messes up quarterbacks.

"It might look like zone coverage, but it's really man. Or maybe it looks like man-to-man but it's really zone."

OK, so ... well ... huh?

"There's no doubt is can be really confusing," added Cavil. "It's meant to keep everything in front of them, waiting for a reaction. It's not effective when they get beaten over the top."

RESTRAINT

But that doesn't mean the way to manhandle the match is by having Ricky Ray look deep, find a Cavil or Mookie Mitchell, and go for the home-run strike.

Actually, the key is showing great restraint from heaving up the long bomb instead of taking what the defence offers.

At one point last week, the Alouettes were racking up lengthy drives against the Argos but had only one touchdown to show for it.

"It's like they're holding up a sign saying, 'We'll give you this, and if you have patience, we'll keep giving it to you,'" said Esks head coach Danny Maciocia.

"They give you a ton of yards, then you get into the red zone and stall. You have to try to capitalize when you're down there."

Maciocia could do nothing but smile and laugh when queried on how to explain and break the match defence.

"You got a few hours?" he chuckled.

In an abbreviated effort, Maciocia figured the Argo format is that of a box. Where you have two receivers, they have three, and where you have three they have four. Everybody gets jumbled up, and nobody is open for the QB.

There is no succinct way of taking a box-cutter to the box. Just advice. Don't get panicky. Have patience.

Maciocia has no qualms about the first issue. The latter, however, is admittedly a concern.

"As much as I claim we have to be patient, I'm not the most patient guy on the face of the Earth," said Maciocia.

"It is a question of patience, and we've been preaching that all week. The mindset I have to be in is that I'm going to call as many plays as possible and not think big. Hopefully when they get fed up and want to play tight, we can get behind them."

DELIBERATE

Until that times comes, the Esks will have to chip away by making short but significant gains on steady, deliberate marches down the field. Then, when the time is right, fire up the match.

"I can play that game, but that's what makes it frustrating," said Ray.

"Their philosophy is to try to cover and make you do all the work. It's hard to move the chains when you only get four or five yards on each play, but we've got to have patience and take away a lot of what is in front of them."

If Ray and his offensive mates keep their heads, they've got a shot at finding holes in the match defence. But this battle of first-place hopefuls doesn't necessarily boil down to Ray's success.

"The team that is able to take certain things away, that's the one that will prevail," said Maciocia.

"It's about our defence versus their defence."


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