Esks starting to peak, says Reed

Edmonton's Fred Stamps, centre, celebrates his touchdown with Gord Hinse, left, and Adarius Bowman...

Edmonton's Fred Stamps, centre, celebrates his touchdown with Gord Hinse, left, and Adarius Bowman during the Edmonton Eskimos 24-10 win against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday. (Codie McLachlan, QMI Agency)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

The up and down Edmonton Eskimos are now looking up again.

Way up.

The Eskimos won five in a row to start the season. Now the goals is to win five in a row to finish it.

“You have to play them one at a time, but I can’t say it’s not in the back of my mind. It’s in the front of my mind,” said Greg Peach after his team’s 24-10 win over the WinnipegBlue Bombers Saturday night.

The win put the Eskimos’ magic number of playing host to their first home playoff game since 2004 at two. Any combination of Eskimo wins and Calgary Stampeders losses totalling two and Edmonton will finish no worse than second in the Western Conference.

With away games in Toronto and B.C. followed by a regular season finale at home against Saskatchewan, why not make the goal the home playoff game the Western Final and come right out and say it, said Peach.

“We have to win out. We have three games left. We control our own destiny,” said Peach, the leader of a defence that for the second game led the way.

Strange talk, considering the Eskimos had won only two of their previous eight, prior to the Saskatchewan Thanksgiving Day game.

But who expected the 5-0 run to start the season?

The defence is playing the same way now that it did then.

“Those guys are starting to peak,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “Those guys played hard and they played fast.”

They also played stupid — taking 11 penalties for 124 yards, including an objectionable conduct penalty in the first quarter.

Jykine Bradley took three pass interference penalties and Marcus Howard had a face mask infraction and an unnecessary roughness penalty, the latter of which resulted in a sideline dressing down by Reed, who promptly sent him back in to make a whale of a play.

Howard had two of the five Eskimo sacks in the game and now leads the team with nine in the same number of games.

“I told him not to be like your stupid coach,” said Reed.

“Penalties are something I’m really going to look at,” he added.

But they had pressure. And other than Bradley, they had coverage. And the other parts were in synch as well — as Ray went 20 for 29 for 220 yards and running back Jerome Messam carried 11 times for 74 yards.

Going into the season, who would have thought that Travis Lulay would be the league’s most outstanding player and Messam the top Canadian?

The three phases of Edmonton’s game came together almost as well as they have all year — give or take Fred Stamps, who only caught three passes for 25 yards, although one of them was a touchdown.

Oh, and Damon Duval missed two more field goals from outside 40 yards to make it seven in a row from out there.

“Playing like that in all three phases like that is big for us,” said quarterback Ricky Ray.

“We played a pretty solid game tonight. Early in the year, that’s what we were doing.

“That’s what you want at this point of the season, to be able to control your own destiny.

“We put ourselves in a good position tonight. We reached our first goal of making it into the playoffs last Monday and now getting the home date and the first-round bye are the next two things we are looking at.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot.”

“It was a very big win,” added Reed.

“Given what happened the night before, we were placed in a great position,” he said of Calgary’s loss to the Argos in Toronto.

While that result didn’t send fans to the ticket wickets for what suddenly became a very big game against the Bombers.

The crowd was announced at 30,734, after the previous four games at Commonwealth Stadium drew 35,216, 45,672, 40,274 and 38,054 and featured three consecutive losses and an offensively unimpressive 17-1 win over a Saskatchewan team that has seen their season implode with 42-5 and 40-3 losses.

Peach made the point.

“There’s not much point in having a home playoff game if you can’t win big games at home,” he said.

The Eskimos won a very big one Saturday night.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

 


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