Instead of being one win away from playing in Canada’s great game, the Edmonton Eskimos are essentially now four wins away from winning the Grey Cup.
“The defence definitely feels like we let the team down. We basically spotted the B.C. Lions 14 points. We came out flat. I think some guys were too up. I think that’s why we missed so many assignments,” said rookie rush end Marcus Howard.
“It was a great opportunity and we just didn’t get it done. One thing we can’t do right now in a situation like this is feel sorry for ourselves,” said quarterback Ricky Ray.
“We have to win those games. We made silly mistakes in the beginning. We didn’t execute,” said defensive leader Greg Peach of the 29-20 loss by a team which has been great at creating opportunities and terrible at seizing the moment when presented with them.
“We didn’t tackle well and there were a lot of missed assignments. I don’t think it was a matter of not being ready. I think it was a matter of not playing relaxed,” said coach Kavis Reed of the brutal beginning to the game which cost them control of their own destiny.
“I think it was mostly nerves. We were slow mentally and physically. Really, I think that’s probably a sign of growing up. About 70% of our team has not been through that kind of pressure.
“The stage was really big and some guys were up tight. It’s a sign of immaturity. Certain guys were a little uptight. Hopefully it’s a good dress rehearsal for playing in a playoff atmosphere.
“Hopefully we’ll end up back there in the very same venue in the Grey Cup and have the experience of having been there before. Only experience is going to give these guys a handle on that situation.
“We have to be careful here. This team is so green the balance of being hard on them and being positive has to be capped. If we’re too hard on them, this team can go off the cliff. They aren’t mentally strong enough to handle a bag skate.”
Maybe now these young Eskimos with 23 of the 46 players new to the team including 12 of 24 starters will figure out a way to embrace the incredible conclusion to this spectacularly stupid season.
For the first time since 1986, when the CFL adopted 16 game schedule from 14, no team will have hit the 12-win plateau. The last such season was back in 1982 when Eskimos and Blue Bombers went 11-5.
It’s a complicated playoff picture now for the Eskimos, a team which could have put Western Final playoff tickets on sale if they’d showed up against the Lions.
If they defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders Friday night, the Eskimos will play their first playoff game in Commonwealth Stadium since the 2004 Western Conference semifinal.
If they don’t gag on that game, and end up an 11-7 team, and the Montreal Alouettes end up beating the Lions in the last game of the regular season then they’ll play host to their 23rd Western Final and the first time since 2003 after all.
While Edmonton had already clinched a 53rd appearance in the playoffs in 63 seasons, the first goal now is to assure the 41st time they’ve finished in either first or second place to guarantee a home playoff game.
How long has it been since the Eskimos finished first and played host to the Western Final in Commonwealth Stadium?
There’s only one player left who remembers it. Ricky Ray is the only player left from that 2003 team.
How long since there was a home playoff game here?
You can ask 2004 rookies Mathieu Bertrand and Andrew Nowacki about that but not Ray. He was with NFL’s New York Jets that year.
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