Scary stats haunt Esks

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

As the Edmonton Eskimos prepare for their final regular-season game of the year this weekend, there is good news and bad news hanging around the team.

The good news: the club has won three straight games, giving it a chance to host either the West final or semi-final if it wins on Sunday.

The bad news: the offence continues to struggle.

Although Halloween is over, the offensive stats for the Eskimos are still somewhat scary.

-- The squad is averaging just 18 points a game during the last four tilts, compared to 28 points per game during the first 13 contests.

-- Ricky Ray hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in four games after throwing 25 in the opening 13 games.

-- The offence has just a 33% success rate scoring TDs in the red zone -- inside the opponent's 20-yard line -- in three of the last four games. Before being embarrassed in Hamilton in late September, the team had a 59% success rate.

START PRODUCING

With the playoffs starting next weekend, the offence needs to step up and start producing at a higher rate -- and Ray knows it.

"Definitely," he said yesterday.

"Our defence has been playing so well this last stretch of the year that -- offensively -- we have been able to get away with just protecting the football and kicking a lot of field goals.

"But we can't rely on that.

"So, offensively it starts with me and we have to go out there and score some more points. We have to do our part."

Running back Troy Davis has been doing his part for the offence, averaging 92 yards per game since arriving via a trade from Hamilton last month.

But Davis's arrival was also supposed to open up the passing game for Ray.

The widespread belief was the opposition would respect the new-found running game and therefore give receivers more room to move while protecting against the run.

But the offence hasn't been able to connect on long pass plays.

In the last two games, the longest catch-and-run play has totalled 36 yards, which is a concern.

"It is something that we have to get better at," continued Ray.

"It is tougher this year, a lot of teams are playing a lot more zone coverage and trying to take away the deep ball, but definitely, we have got to do a better job of taking some shots and getting some touchdowns from out there."

To the offence's credit, it has put together a big drive late in the fourth quarter in each of the last three games to either save or win the tilt.

"Now the question is: Can we (put together big drives) consistently?" said head coach Danny Maciocia, who is like any coach and wants to avoid trying the trick of narrowly escaping with victories.

The last chance to find positive and productive consistency on offence before the sudden-death playoff round comes on Sunday afternoon at McMahon Stadium in Calgary against the Stampeders.

ALMOST A PLAYOFF GAME

But Game 18 of the regular-season is almost a playoff game for the Esks.

A loss to Calgary would mean Edmonton would have to return to McMahon Stadium for the West semi-final, forcing a long road to the Grey Cup.

"If we want to be able to go out there and win the Grey Cup," said Ray, "(then) offensively we have to get a lot better."


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