Eskimos D measured on final play
By GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency
|Joe Burnett, left, and Chris Thompson celebrate Burnett's touchdown off a fumble recovery during the second half of the Edmonton Eskimos' 28-20 win against the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday. (Codie McLachlan/QMI Agency)
EDMONTON - The difference between winning and losing for the Edmonton Eskimos came down to the final play on Friday night.
With the Saskatchewan Roughriders sitting first-and-10 just 33 yards from the end zone thanks to an untimely roughing-the-passer penalty, the Eskimos might have just as easily seen their hard-fought eight-point lead evaporate on one final Hail Mary attempt.
It happened to them once last year in a loss to the Calgary Stampeders, who stole an extra seven points on the final play of the half when Eskimos defensive back Chris Thompson attempted to knock down a last-second sky ball only to have it land in the hands of receiver Nik Lewis for the score.
Thompson wasn't going to leave any room for error this time, earning his first interception of the season on a jump ball in the end zone before immediately taking a knee.
"It was a lucky tip they got last year, it's over with," said Thompson, adding it wasn't in the back of his mind at all on Friday. "(Friday), I wasn't leaving any room for error, I just went up and took it.
"I'm happy with the overall play of the defence. It wasn't pretty but we got it done."
It was the full 60-minute effort head coach Kavis Reed demands from his players.
"It's critically important when you're playing a very good football team like Saskatchewan, every second is going to matter," he said. "They weren't out of this football game one time, just like our football team wasn't out of it.
"Two very determined football teams played (Friday) night. Fortunately for us, we got the break in the end."
The Roughriders had their fair share of bounces, as well, but none as big as when Thompson laid a lick on Weston Dressler to force a fumble that was recovered by Joe Burnett and taken 44 yards the other way for six.
"I think that was a huge momentum change," Reed said. "Saskatchewan got a lot of breaks and our morale remained positive. Those guys knew that they just needed to make a play and went out and made a play.
"That's the character of this football team; when adversity strikes, those guys band together and they make plays."
More often than not, it has been Burnett who finishes them.
"Joe is a playmaker, and that's the thing that has kept him here," Reed said. "He's a very versatile individual who has a knack for finding the football.
"He took a couple of chances (Friday) and he wasn't successful, but we're never going to tell him not to take chances because that's the nature of how he plays."