Tillman targets Eskimos special teams in loss

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:03 AM ET

EDMONTON - Special teams didn't live up to its name for the Edmonton Eskimos on Monday.

While the 2012 Labour Day Classic came down to a 48-yard field goal attempt into the wind on the last play of the game, place kicker Grant Shaw gave it his all and can't be blamed for coming up a handful of yards short of sending the 31-30 game into overtime.

Neither can punter Burke Dales, who injured his planting foot in the first half and did all he could to stay in the game against his former Calgary Stampeders teammates, but ended up hopping off the field early in the third quarter.

Though the finger wasn't pointed at either of them, the same can't be said for the rest of the block and cover squads, who drew the ire of Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman after the game.

“Full credit to Calgary for the win, they did a lot of things very well,” he said. “That said, unfortunately two words sum up the loss from our perspective: Special teams.”

The blame stretches from long-snapper Ryan King all the way to return man Joe Burnett.

“We had two botched snaps. One cost us an extra point and the other bouncer resulted in a punt not getting off and a Calgary touchdown four plays later,” Tillman said of Calgary's opening drive, which began at the Edmonton 26 after Dales recovered the low snap for an 11-yard loss.

King's second fumble led to a failed conversion that was recovered by holder Matt Nichols for a 12-yard loss after Edmonton took a 13-7 lead on a 73-yard catch-and-run by Hugh Charles, who bounced off of defender Keon Raymond.

The long-snapper was baled out by Shaw on the ensuing kickoff, which went 87 yards and into the end zone for a single after Corbin Sharun tackled Raymond on the return.

“Then, of course, the huge mistake of not conceding the single on that last kickoff, only to be followed up by our cover guys on the last play — the missed field goal — getting out of their lanes and making it much easier for (Larry) Taylor to escape the end zone, preserving the win,” Tillman said of Burnett making the wrong decision on a return for the second week in a row and Taylor executing the right one. “If any one of those four plays were different, any of them, we would have almost certainly been looking at overtime or better.”

Instead, the Eskimos fall to 5-4 and, perhaps more importantly, drop to 0-1 early in the season series with a provincial rival they will face three more times in the next nine games.

The way the standings look now, the team that comes out on top will be looking at a home playoff date.

The good news for the Eskimos is they won't have to wait long for a chance at redemption, with the Labour Day rematch scheduled for Friday at Commonwealth Stadium (7 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED).

“Hey, it is what it is, no time to cry in our beer,” Tillman said. “Life and football are about responding to adversity.

“With the help of our fans on Friday night, I hope we can bounce back strong.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SunModdejonge


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