The agony of it all!

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

TORONTO -- Did anybody outside of the Edmonton Eskimos' dressing room expect anything else?

Certified masters at blowing golden opportunities, the Green and Gold are slipping deeper into their grave after squandering a chance to grab hold of their own playoff destiny yesterday by losing 28-23 to the Toronto Argos.

"It is one of those heartbreaking losses," said guard Dan Comiskey.

Knowing the Montreal Alouettes had done them a huge favour by pasting the Saskatchewan Roughriders earlier in the day, the Esks could have inched to within two points of the final West playoff spot.

More importantly, a victory would have meant control, as the Esks could have qualified for the post-season by winning their remaining games and not need help from other teams.

Instead, they practically fell asleep in the first half before deciding to play football in the final 30 minutes.

It was the same old script, complete with a crucial fourth-quarter play - this time a Ricky Ray fumble - that made yesterday's feverish comeback attempt fall painfully short.

"It was there for us," said Edmonton's Ed Hervey of the opportunity. "Knowing that (Saskatchewan) lost, you would think that we would come in here a little bit anxious to get this game going and be fired up.

"I am not going to question the effort, but sometimes you have to seize the moment. And unfortunately we didn't do that."

And that means Edmonton is still four points behind the Riders with just three games remaining.

The Esks' Tragic Number in the West is now two, which means the playoff hopes in the West die with any combination of Rider wins and/or Edmonton losses that equals two.

In the East crossover, the Tragic Number is one - another Esks' loss or Winnipeg win ends that hope.

"Now it's really crunch time and we can't have any slow starts," said linebacker A.J. Gass.

What the Eskimos did yesterday was get into a 10-point hole in the opening six minutes of the game. By halftime it was a 25-9 deficit.

Two one-yard quarterback sneaks for TDs brought the Esks to within five points late in the fourth.

But then Ray watched in horror as Riall Johnson knocked the ball loose from his hands with 4:50 left on the clock at Toronto's 17-yard line.

"We had a short route with a deep route on top and they played a different coverage than they did all night," said Ray, remembering the play.

"Football is a weird game.

"One week you are able to make the plays and the next week you are not. It's just the way it goes for us.

"That has been our season this year, coming up a bit short."

As usual, Edmonton was hurt by costly penalties.

The only difference yesteray compared to the rest of Edmonton's season is that the running game came alive.

But the Green and Gold squandered Troy Davis's 189-yard game, too.


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