VANCOUVER - It’s first things first for the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday.
And the one thing they don’t want to do in the West Division final is the same thing they have done against the B.C. Lions in all three of their losses this year: beat themselves in the first quarter.
“With B.C., for whatever reason, we get behind the 8-ball so fast that we have to try to scramble back,” head coach Kavis Reed said. “It is critically important, like in all games, for us to be very conscientious of our start, but moreso with these guys.
“In the last three games we played, we were down by nine points, we’ve been down by 14 points, we were down by 16 points. If we eliminate those, I think we have an opportunity.”
Which makes the game plan straightforward, if not simple.
“I think our coaches realize that the mandate is to make certain that we get out of the first quarter either ahead or even and that will give us a chance.”
The one win the Eskimos earned over the Lions was back in Week 3. So long ago that the Eskimos didn’t bother looking at that game film.
“There is absolutely nothing that we feel is going to translate to this game,” said Reed. “The one thing I have shown them is when we play physical and we play smart, it’s a lot more difficult for B.C. to move the ball and a lot more difficult for B.C. to stop us offensively.
“And that’s the key, to make this a physical football game. It has to be one of those games where by the fourth quarter, the team that has enough left in the tank will probably win it.”
Nor is Reed looking at the Lions’ last loss, a 42-10 trouncing at the hands of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Week 17 that interrupted an eight-game winning streak — one that started with a 36-1 win over the Eskimos in Commonwealth Stadium.
“No, I’m focusing strictly on our games against them,” said Reed. “Our coaches have expanded their scouting report a little bit more than I am, but I am focusing on what we’ve done against them.”
But the Lions aren’t putting much faith in the three-out-of-four they won over the Eskimos in the regular season to claim the tiebreak that earned them homefield advantage on Sunday.
“No, we can’t look at that,” said Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian. “We look at that and complacency sets in. This is a new game, the stakes are higher.
“It’s do or die. Regardless of our record throughout the season, we have to play them like we’ve never played them before.”