WINNIPEG -- The Edmonton Eskimos aim to take a home-and-home series with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers when the two teams square off at Investors Group Field tonight.
A week after the Esks earned a well-rounded victory over the very same Bombers, both teams are set to go all-in for their pivotal Week 13 rematch.
“I think it is,” second-year head coach Tim Burke said when asked whether the fact that the Bombers are still in the middle of a playoff race is a motivating factor at this point in the season, despite not getting the favourable start they had hoped for.
“I think guys are definitely aware that we’re not that far out and if we get on a roll here, we can get into the playoffs.”
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Tasked with the turnaround will be a new face behind centre, as rookie quarterback Max Hall gets his first start since sustaining a hand injury in the first quarter of an August 24th loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats -- something both Hall and his teammates hope can provide a jolt for a team that needs to win now.
“I think the team’s excited, I think we’re hungry, I think we put the last game behind us and we’re looking forward and we want to go out there and execute well this week,” Hall told BlueBombers.com, as the Bombers look to rebound from a 25-7 loss last weekend.
“It’s another good opportunity for me and another good opportunity for our football team to go out there and play well in front of our home crowd.”
Hall has a quarterback rating of 68.8 on 54 career attempts, but has shown upside in his brief stint and more importantly has earned the trust of the coaching staff moving forward.
Quarterback play has been an issue for the Bombers over the past half-decade, and a huge part of that has to do with the team’s inability to find a consistent week-to-week starter. As Friday’s contest marks the fourth week-to-week change in the last eight weeks, Burke hopes this will be the start of continuity at the position.
“Nobody wants to be rotating quarterbacks,” said Burke. “You want consistency because there’s communication and timing with the receivers and the running backs and the O-line, and the consistent voice in the huddle.”
“Everyone knows how to play off each other, and that’s what you’re really striving for.”
While last week’s loss may have been tough to endure for the Bomber offence, which was sacked four times and intercepted twice, there were positives for Hall -- particularly getting a half of action against this week’s opponent.
“I learned a lot,” said Hall. “They played us a little differently than we expected so we’ve made some adjustments, but we also know they’re probably going to change this week how they play.”
“We’ve watched a lot of film, did a lot of study, spent a lot of time with each other to get on the same page and hopefully that translates to the field on Friday,” he continued. “I think it will, I feel confident in those guys doing it and confident in myself making the right reads and getting the ball out.”
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The key for having success in round two against the Esks will be getting off to a quicker start, particularly after a challenging first quarter on both sides of the ball in last week’s loss.
With the team sitting four points out of a playoff spot, that’ll have to change on Friday if the Bombers hope reverse their fortunes and make a push for the post-season.
Likewise, the Eskimos are looking for a quick start on Friday night as they too look to claw back into the playoff picture. A greater challenge awaits in Week 13 as unlike last weekend in the friendly confines of Commonwealth Stadium, the atmosphere at Investors Group Field won’t be as pleasant.
“That was one of the things when we were going through the design, they wanted to make sure that they kept that aspect of it in,” Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed told Esks.com when asked about the challenge of playing in what promises to be an electric atmosphere. “The sound is really trapped in there and from every account we’ve gotten from people that have played there, it is excessively noisy in there and we have to account for that.”
“I’ve never been in a stadium in the CFL that’s as loud as the old Winnipeg stadium, it is deafening in there and if it is anywhere near that it’s going to be a challenge,” he continued. “We’re trying to prepare for it, but there’s not much you can do to prepare for that.”
While the noise may be a detriment to an Edmonton offence that appears to be heating up, the atmosphere should play well into Reed’s mentality of every game being a playoff game moving forward. Edmonton’s playoff hopes are also still intact, but unlike the Bombers their hill is steeper.
The Eskimos currently sit 10 points out of third in the West, and will likely have to crossover to the East Division just like last year, which would require finishing ahead of both the Bombers and another team in the East.
|The last time they met|
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Winnipeg 7, Edmonton 25
Mike Reilly threw three touchdown passes, while the Eskimo defence had its best performance of the season as the Edmonton Eskimos cruised to a 25-7 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday evening at Commonwealth Stadium.
» Read more.
“It has to be a perspective of this is our playoff right now,” said Reed. “Every game is that playoff game, because we are in a minus-seven situation...we have an opportunity to put ourselves even, and that’s it.”
The Esks put forth their most dominant showing of the season last week on all sides of the ball on the way to an 18-point win over the Bombers.
“We came out with a purpose and some intensity in the first half,” said starting quarterback Mike Reilly, whose three first-half passing touchdowns put the game out of reach. “It was nice to have good field position off the bat and we executed in the red zone where we needed to.”
The young emerging pivot completed 16 of 25 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns, but more than that was a threat on the ground, finishing with a game-high 113 yards on nine runs.
Despite being young and inexperienced, Reilly has turned heads in his first season as a starter, boasting a quarterback rating of 94.1 with 19 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions. Also unlike most young starters, though, he’s not caught up in his own success but instead is focused on how he can improve.
“There was still one drive that we ended with a field goal where we had two chances from inside the 10-yard-line, so we need to clean that up,” added Reilly. “But for the most part we were able to execute when the opportunities presented themselves and our defence continued to give us a lot of chances.”
“If they can keep doing that, it makes the game a lot easier for us.”
After beating the Bombers last weekend, the focus in Edmonton is high as the team looks to achieve what so many people are saying isn’t possible: a berth in the playoffs this season.
For Reed, that means winning one game at a time, starting with Friday night.
“We have to make certain that one is our number,” said Reed. “Every focus has to be on the one that we have ahead of us. Don’t look at the standings, don’t look at the game next...look at the game now, because in order for us to be in that conversation, we have to win football games.”
“There is very, very, very little room for error right now.”
Kickoff is at 8:00 P.M. ET, and can be seen on TSN or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca and CFL Mobile.
- With files from BlueBombers.com/Esks.com