The Edmonton Eskimos ditched the unintentional tortoise strategy. Football games, at least according to a team in their position, aren’t won with a slow and steady pace through three quarters.
There’s no way to climb the standings by coming close, as the Eskimos did for two games against Montreal and Hamilton leading into their bye week.
That’s why quarterback Mike Reilly didn’t waste any of his time off, studying and planning for the Week 8 trip to Rogers Centre with offensive coordinator Doug Sams and head coach Kavis Reed.
|Reilly, Ray Shine|
On Sunday, the first-year starter completed 35 of 46 passes for 511 yards, notching league single-game highs for 2013.
Gone was the sluggish start or what Reed calls the team’s Achilles heel. For the first time since Edmonton’s only win of the season on July 7, the team managed more than three points in the first quarter.
Still, Edmonton fell to Toronto, 36-33, extending its losing streak to five games.
“The loss is very disappointing. It’s devastating,” Reed said. “This team fought extremely hard. They did not quit and that’s the resiliency of the team we have.”
For the fourth-straight game, the Eskimos had more than 300 net yards and a receiver with more than 100 yards. Edmonton outscored the Argonauts 17-3 in the fourth quarter, but none of it was enough.
If Reilly could trade a number that lands him fourth best in Eskimos history for most yards in a game, behind Jason Maas and Warren Moon (twice), he’d do it. He’d take 100 yards if it meant a win.
“You can talk all you want about points or yards or this or that, but the reality is, we played three quarters of a football game,” Reilly said.
Edmonton forgot its reshaped identity after halftime. The offensive pace was slowed by an offside penalty and missed throws; the difference was just a couple of steps for Reilly in two incomplete passes to receiver Fred Stamps in the third quarter, turning the modest 17-16 advantage for the Argos into a commanding 33-16 lead.
“[Our fans] deserve wins and we’re trying to do everything we can to get them, but right now it’s just not happening,” the quarterback said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get over the hump. I still believe once we break that seal, we’re going to have a great football club.”
Edmonton’s late-game heroics to mount 17 points in the last nine minutes of the game speak to the growth of Reilly. From the added game planning with Reed and Sam, the quarterback said the offence could click before the plays were even called.
Reilly’s heightened preparation found everyone on the field: Stamps for 172 yards and a touchdown, Nate Coehoorn for 92 yards (and a nearly impossible 51-yard catch in the fourth) and Cary Koch for 68.
“We’re starting to trust one another more everyday,” Stamps said of the collaborative effort.