Esks doin' it with defence

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

Is the Edmonton Eskimos defence coming together at the right time of the year?

Or do the stats tell a misleading story?

In the last two games, the Green and Gold's defence has only given up three touchdowns.

In the East Division semifinal victory in Winnipeg last weekend, the Esks defence forced a punt or turnover on 13 of 17 drives.

Those are impressive numbers with Edmonton playing in Montreal on Saturday in the East Division final (11 a.m. MT, TSN, CHED), with the winner advancing to the Grey Cup on Nov. 23.

But critics will point out that the final regular-season game on Oct. 31 against Montreal -- the first contest in this impressive two-game stretch -- featured back-up pivot Marcus Brady, not starter Anthony Calvillo.

In the East final, Calvillo will be back at the controls.

But Edmonton defensive co-ordinator Rick Campbell claims his club saw Montreal's main offensive schemes on Halloween night.

"They have been pretty consistent," said Campbell.

The Montreal offence is built around timing.

Calvillo picks apart defences based on quick passes to receivers like Ben Cahoon, Jamel Richardson and Kerry Watkins.

While it's extremely difficult to get to Calvillo before he releases the ball, the blueprint to defensive success is disrupting the timing of the receivers.

After being hammered 40-4 in Montreal in September, the Esks' defence claims to have learned the lesson.

"As a secondary, we didn't watch enough film together," said linebacker Shannon Garrett, referring to the Sept. 21 contest in Quebec.

"Practice is only four-and-a-half hours, so you've got to get together after practice."

The secondary has apparently done that now.

"We've got to be physical with the receivers," continued Garrett.

"Anthony throws the ball real quick so you can't get much pressure, but we are going to make him throw uncomfortable," continued Garrett.

In the 40-4 Montreal meltdown, with Calvillo directing the troops, the Esks gave up points on the first six drives at Percival Molson Stadium.

Edmonton actually gave up a touchdown or field goal in eight of the first nine drives before Montreal head coach Marc Trestman took pity and ran out the clock.

Three Alouette receivers topped 100 yards that afternoon -- Richardson (150), Watkins (109) and Cahoon (106) -- with Montreal rolling up a staggering 576 net yards.

"We played a little bit too far off (receivers)," said Edmonton defensive back Jordan Younger on that game.

"The game plan wasn't that bad when we went back and looked at it.

"It was just we had to step up into the receivers' faces a little bit more."

Obviously, a more physical presence Saturday could draw the attention of the officials.

"If we are worried about that, we are worried about the wrong things," countered Younger.

In Montreal's loss to Winnipeg on Oct. 26, the Bombers provided the defensive blueprint by being physical on receivers.

Calvillo had a very rough afternoon, going 19-for-36 for 191 yards and an interception, which led to the game-winning points.


Videos

Photos