The Edmonton Eskimos did their job and beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders to advance in the CFL playoffs, but it was an ugly win. To be able to beat the West’s top dog in Calgary on Sunday, the Eskimos need to fix a four big factors of the game.
1. Capitalize on turnovers
Edmonton’s defense did an amazing job by forcing five interceptions by Kerry Joseph. Unfortunately the offense did nothing with it scoring three points, one point, zero points, zero points and 1 point on the drives after the picks. That averages to just one point per turnover.
Some of that low scoring does come from a mediocre day by Hugh O’Neill, who went 3-of-5 with two singles, but the Edmonton offense didn’t enter the red zone until the second quarter. Their only touchdown was from Kendial Lawrence’s punt return.
Calgary has just 11 interceptions all season (Bo Levi Mitchell has eight, Drew Tate has three), so there won’t be a repeat of last week. That just further stresses the turnover battle — a must-win for Edmonton if they want any chance of winning.
2. Score More Points in the Second Half
Edmonton has the lowest scoring half of any of the four teams in the semifinals last week, scoring a single on a missed field goal. Even BC was able to split the uprights in the first half of their blowout against Montreal.
The Eskimos have been shut out or only scored on a single for 15 of 72 quarters this season and Sunday’s second half was the only time this season where they went back to back quarters. Their third quarter scoring is -7 compared to their opponents, which doesn’t hold leads efficiently.
Calgary is the only team in the league to have a positive scoring differential every quarter, but Edmonton and Calgary both score more points in the first half compared to the second. If Edmonton wants to win, they’re going to need to score consistently after halftime.
3. Use Running Game to Increase TOP
After a dominant first drive by John White and questions about Matt Nichols at quarterback, one would think that Edmonton would rush the ball more and hope to force Saskatchewan to the air even more. Edmonton decided not to do that and gave the Roughriders a lot of opportunities to get back in the game.
Edmonton only had a 2:22 advantage in time of possession, a drop in the bucket compared to what a team can do when forcing that many turnovers. Jon Cornish is back — and the best running game in the CFL — for the Stampeders, which will shift things favorably in their favor.
John White showed he could make some good runs. Give him the ball more.
4. Air it out:
We mentioned earlier that Edmonton failed to score an offensive touchdown last week. That was the first time a playoff victor had zero offensive TD’s since Edmonton won a field goal-only 1996 West Finals. Interestingly enough, that was an Eskimo victory over Calgary.
Reilly is listed as the starter, which will free Esky up a lot. The Eskimos had just 112 net passing yards, a dismal average of 2.9 yards per pass (YPP). The usual starter from Central Washington is averaging 11.55 YPP this season, which should help open up the field and get more receivers involved.