Mood swingin' Esks keeps 'em guessing
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
|The Stampeders offence was so frustrated by the Eskimos defence, Calgary fans lashed out at the team's quarterback (Reuters)
EDMONTON - When they were supposed to be a struggling loser at the start of a massive rebuild, they responded by playing the best and most entertaining football in the CFL.
When their 5-0 start convinced everyone the once-proud Eskimos were finally a decent team again, they responded with three of the most lopsided and humiliating defeats in franchise history.
Then, just when it was starting to look like their 5-0 start was equal parts smoke and mirrors and they were about to be destroyed on Labour Day, they responded by rolling into Calgary and crushing the Stampeders 35-7.
If the Green and Gold game plan this year was to use their erratic mood swings to keep everyone outside the dressing room guessing, mission accomplished.
"It's hard to say what happened in those three losses, we had some injuries and we just lost momentum, but it's good to be back on track," said defensive tackle Etienne Legare, a day after Edmonton rode the Stampeder whitewash into first place. "What we did in the past, those five wins in a row, was not from being lucky. We worked really hard to be where we are now."
Everybody was expecting a blowout on Monday, they just figured the slumping Eskimos would be on the wrong end of the blow. Instead, the Stampeders were the ones who collapsed under the weight of it all, so frustrated by Edmonton's defence that their fans lashed out at their QB and their QB, in turn, lashed out against the fans.
It stunned the football world, but not the Esks, who knew they'd be up for the fight.
"To be honest, we're not surprised what happened on Monday," said Legare. "We are a good team. If we all work together like we did last game, great things can happen on the field. If we play like we played on Monday we can go against any team in the league."
Salvation came just in the nick of time. Another deflating loss or two and there might have been no coming back, just airlifts and second guessing.
"This was big," said DT Jermaine Reid. "After losing three, it starts weighing on guys minds. You're wondering ‘What's going on? We were doing so well.' We needed to reassure ourselves that we are a good team and we are working hard, and it will pay off.
"We knew what we had to do. We had a game plan and we were fired up. We wanted to get out there and prove a point, that the first five games were not a fluke.
"We just wanted to let everyone know that we are a good team, that we can play with the best in this league, and I think we proved it."
So what now? Now that everyone expects the Eskimos to continue where they left off on Labour Day, firing on all cylinders, is it time to expect the unexpected again?
Head coach Kavis Reed seriously doubts it. He's confident the mood swings are behind them.
"We're going to be a team that's not going to be bullied anymore, I said that in the beginning and these guys are taking that to heart," he said, adding healthy bodies like Greg Peach and Adarius Bowman will help keep them on the right course. "Those are the guys we came out of training camp with and we had that chemistry and continuity coming out of camp. We expected those guys to fit back in and make their presence known."