Read 'em 'n' weep

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Today's Biology 101 lesson is the dissection of the Edmonton Eskimos' rocky start to the 2006 season.

With three losses in their last four games, the defending Grey Cup champs are 2-4 and in the bottom of the West Division.

Why are they stuck in the basement?

There are many reasons ...

1. ANEMIC SCORING PUNCH

The Esks are second last in the league in scoring (only ahead of Toronto), although they're averaging an impressive 384 yards in total offence a game. Edmonton has scored just 104 points through six games, meaning a 17-point average per tilt.

In comparison, Montreal has scored 178 points this year.

To no surprise, the lack of scoring punch means the Esks are horrible in the red zone.

In 16 trips, the Green and Gold have only scored seven majors and have walked away four times without points.

2. FIRST-HALF POWER OUTAGE

The Eskimos have only held the lead once at halftime this year, putting the team behind the eight ball coming out for the second half.

Through six games, the team is averaging just six points in the opening 30 minutes.

Head coach Danny Maciocia can't put his finger on the first-half snoozers.

"I am working on it and I am trying to figure it out," he said.

"Clearly we have to create our own breaks and we haven't had any breaks whatsoever.

"We have had touchdowns called back because of penalties (and) that has been killing us. And we have had drives killed by penalties."

3. PENALTIES

To their credit, the Esks nearly hacked their average penalties per game total in half on Friday night, being flagged just eight times.

But the same old problem exists: key penalties at key moments.

Here are three examples during the season:

Example No. 1: Edmonton took a major off the board with a holding call on Friday in the first half.

Example No. 2: Defensive back Shannon Garret took a pass-interference penalty to keep a scoring drive alive in the fourth quarter on Friday for Montreal. The TD on that drive sealed the win.

Example No. 3: Garrett is flagged for interference in the second half against Winnipeg on July 20. It was a 31-yard penalty to put the ball on the Edmonton one-yard line. The Bombers scored two plays later.

If Edmonton hadn't self-destructed on that drive in the third quarter, the Milt Stegall Hail Mary to win the game wouldn't have mattered.

Overall, Edmonton is averaging 13 penalties a game, which is a record-setting pace.

4. FOURTH-QUARTER COLLAPSES

The Esks have now blown a fourth-quarter lead in three different games this year.

Calgary's Henry Burris found Nik Lewis in the end zone for a 33-yard strike on third-and-10 with less than two minutes left in the opening game of the season.

Calgary took the lead 16-14 and never looked back.

Of course, Stegall crushed the Eskimos' heart on the final play on July 20.

And on Friday night, the defence allowed 14 unanswered points after Edmonton had taken a 13-7 lead. The final score: 21-13.

5. BAD TACKLING

There are glaring and costly examples throughout the Eskimos' overall game film this year.

July 1: Reggie Durden blows two tackles on Chris Brazzell - he scores both times.

July 20: Malcolm Frank misses Milt Stegall on the final play of the game.

July 28: Adam Braidwood can't corral Robert Edwards near the goal-line. Edwards scores to seal the win.


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