D is a big deal for Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

The race for first place is on.

With the Lions losing a thrilling battle in Montreal yesterday afternoon, the Edmonton Eskimos remain just two points behind the B.C. club for first in the CFL West Division.

There are three weeks left in the regular season. However the Eskimos have a bye this week, meaning B.C. has one game in hand.

But nearly four weeks ago, the Lions had a commanding lead, rolling at 11-0 with an eight-point cushion over the Eskimos.

The Lions have dropped four in a row, however, while the Green and Gold have won three of four, including two straight after beating the Riders 19-18 Saturday.

Most of the attention during the last two games has gone to new rusher Troy Davis and a revamped O-line, but the defence has been answering the bell in style.

"They were nothing short of amazing (on Saturday)," said head coach Danny Maciocia, "and the numbers support it."

Just like in Toronto on Thanksgiving Day, the defence surrendered just one touchdown against the Riders.

The defence held the Green and White to just 212 yards of total offence. Coming into the game, Saskatchewan had the second most yards in the league, averaging nearly 370 yards per game.

The front seven held Kenton Keith -- arguably the most dangerous running back in the league -- to only 28 yards.

"With the exception of the one (big) run Keith had, I thought we did a good job of shutting them down and forcing them to throw the football," continued Maciocia.

Keith rambled for 19 yards on one carry, meaning he had a meager nine yards on his eight other carries.

Rider quarterback Marcus Crandell threw for a measly 121 yards and didn't find leading receiver Elijah Thurmon until late in the fourth quarter.

The defence didn't cause a turnover, but forced three against Toronto last Monday, including two key fumbles.

Large penalties were still a factor Saturday, with Donny Brady taking an interference penalty in the end zone and Singor Mobley being flagged twice -- unnecessary roughness and roughing the passer -- in three plays for a total of 30 yards.

However, the defence hasn't jumped offside in the last two games, a major improvement after being flagged seven times for the infraction in Hamilton three weeks ago.

SHORT YARDAGE: With a bye week, Eskimo players are off for the next six days -- good news for defensive end Rashad Jeanty.

"I just tweaked my hamstring a little bit," said Jeanty, who had been battling a shoulder injury earlier in the month. "It seems like almost every week it is something new, sometimes it frustrates you." Jeanty is the only notable injury from Saturday's game.


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