Stats for losers

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:11 PM ET

Shoulda, coulda and woulda, but didn't.

With 414 yards of passing, 30 first downs and 36 minutes of ball control, the Edmonton Eskimos had the numbers to win a game. All the digits that matter were in their favour against the Toronto Argonauts - except the ones on the scoreboard.

So the Esks went down in the flames for the third time this season - the sum total of their margins of defeat equalling all of 11 points. It's not a matter of wholesale personnel changes or a massive overhaul of the system, according to head coach Danny Maciocia.

REMEDY WITHIN

The remedy lies within.

"We need to start doing things a little smarter around here," said the frustrated boss as the club got back to work yesterday in preparation for Friday's home tilt against the Montreal Alouettes.

"If we eliminate the errors, then we can start talking about being a pretty good football team. But until then we're not."

The message has come loud and clear from the coach himself. If it's being heard by every set of ears in the locker-room is another matter as Maciocia has again had to get on his pulpit to start preaching about commitment, execution and playing as mistake-free as possible.

Maciocia shouldn't need to play the heavy on a veteran-laden team. He's left the locker-room cops to patrol the beat and they, too, have been laying down the law.

"Things have been said about cutting down the mistakes, and we have a chance to make our wrongs right," said Singor Mobley.

'INTENSITY IS THERE'

"The effort is fine and the assignments are good," seconded A.J. Gass. "Whether we're playing good teams or bad teams, we're ready to play. The intensity is there. It's just that the results aren't always there."

Not much matters more than results. Win ugly or win pretty - no one particularly cares.

Not getting victories, especially at home and one way or another against teams the Esks should be on par with (Argos, Lions and Als), is becoming a concern.

"We haven't played the game we're capable of playing against the better teams," admitted Ricky Ray. "We had our chances to win the game and did some good things but we made some bad mistakes. If we make more of those mistakes this week, it's not going to be good for us."

So what gives? They're the most penalized team in the league with piddly miscues like time count violations costing them against the Argos. More disconcerting is the fact the Esks have built up a bad habit of choosing to play only half a game.

Somewhere in the quagmire lies the answer to why a 5-3 team can look like contenders for a while and then suddenly appear to be falling apart seam by seam.

"This football team just needs to line up and have fun," declared Maciocia.

"Forget about what city they're in and what people are saying about them. I have a sense that by the end of the first quarter if we're not leading by three touchdowns it's like it's almost the end of the world."

LATE HITS: Falling behind to Toronto again put the desire to develop a running game on the backburner for the Esks. Ray finished as Edmonton's top ground-gainer with 58 yards on 11 carries. Tailback Elvis Joseph had just 17 yards on five attempts.

"We'll be better if we can start to make a commitment to the running game and stick with it," said Ray.

KICKING IT AROUND: The roster for Friday wasn't tops on Maciocia's mind, but the Esks might well be considering a move that would have Sean Fleming stay in as punter, with import Hayden Epstein added to the lineup as the placekicker.

Epstein was booming field goals on the practice field yesterday and declared himself ready if called upon. The only thing missing was a tee.

"I haven't used one since high school," said Epstein. "It makes it easier and you get more distance and height, but I've been doing what I've been doing for eight years and I'm not going to change now."


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