No killer instinct

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

CALGARY -- Danny Maciocia's Eskimos can't close.

One of the biggest weaknesses of his first 10 games in the head coaching business is that he has a football team that doesn't know how to put a team away. They don't know how to go for the throat and kick teams when they're down. They have no killer instinct. It makes for much more interesting football games. But ...

"In my mind, I can't believe this is happening," said Maciocia as he watched a 25-1 lead disappear and the Edmonton Eskimos come close to making it a classic, classic Labour Day Classic by blowing a 24-point lead and losing to the Calgary Stampeders.

"The only thing we haven't done all year is close out the football game," said Maciocia after what turned out to be a very scary 25-23 win. "I told the team 'Congratulations for the win. But we've got to close out football games.'

"It's not an easy place to play," said Maciocia of McMahon Stadium on Labour Day. "You can hardly hear yourself think. I know there's a long history of games like this on Labour Day. I'm happy with the win. But am I happy with the way we won? No."

ALL'S WELL IN THE STANDINGS

In the end the Eskimos are 7-3 and the Stampeders 4-6 and all is well in the standings heading to Friday's return match in Commonwealth Stadium.

But instead of the Stampeders coming north beat before they get past Balzac, the Eskimos allowed Tom Higgins's team to come back and score a moral victory. Suddenly, with the way the Stampeders handed the Eskimos their helmets in the second half, the Labour Day Rematch is in doubt.

"That's marketing," laughed Eskimos CEO Hugh Campbell of the potential to sell out Commonwealth Stadium coming off this game.

"We'd have closed the game up early, but CBC was looking for ratings," Maciocia was able to joke as well.

Still, in most ways, you have to score it a moral loss for the Eskimos. That would certainly exclude Cedric Scott, who chased down Henry Burris on the last-minute two-point convert attempt which would have tied it. And others.

"That game could easily have been lost, but we kept our composure," Maciocia gave credit. "We hung together. The support of each other was remarkable."

But 25-1 is 25-1. It was 14-5 Eskimos in first downs at the half. It was 245 yards to 65 Edmonton in total offence. In the end it was 18-17 Calgary in first downs, and 294 yards to 275 Calgary in total offence.

"It sure looked pretty good in the first half," said quarterback Ricky Ray, who completed 19 of 26 passes. In the second half he was only able to complete seven of 16 passes for a meagre 56 yards.

"We just didn't get it going in the second half. They came back with more intensity than we had. We didn't go for their throat. We let them get their crowd back into it."

If it wasn't Labour Day and if you didn't know better, a guy might have considered heading home at the half. So maybe it should be just written down as Labour Day being Labour Day. But ... It's not just that it was 25-1. It should have been about 40-1.

"In the first half we left points on the table. We didn't capitalize and settled for a couple of field goals," said Maciocia.

GLORIOUS OPPORTUNITIES

Rashad Jeanty himself was responsible for two touchdowns left on the field. How often does a defensive lineman have glorious opportunities to score TWO touchdowns?

It would have been 7-0 Eskimos on Calgary's first play from scrimmage if Jeanty could have squeezed the pigskin when a Henry Burris pass deep in Stampeder territory hit him in the numbers.

If Jeanty had held the ball when he fell on a fumble in the Calgary end zone early in the second half, it would have been seven points instead of two for the safety touch.

"I should have made those plays. Both of them. That was unacceptable on my part.

"It's the Labour Day game. A lot of stuff like that has happened at the Labour Day game. But I apologize to my teammates for not getting the job done."

Nobody needs to apologize for anything. It was a Labour Day win in Calgary. Labour Day wins in Calgary don't really require apologies.

But this team really does need to acquire a killer instinct, if for no other reason thanRicky Ray is going to get killed if he keeps getting hit like he did in a second half that somebody else could have been mopping up.


Photos