Un-D-feated: Esks 'D' stifles Willy, Bombers | CFL.ca | Official Site of the Canadian Football League

CFL.ca Staff

WINNIPEG -- Odell Willis scored on a pick-six and Mike Reilly did the rest with his legs, as an overpowering defence led the Edmonton Eskimos to a 26-3 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday night at Investors Group Field.

In a battle of two undefeated teams that pitted the league's top-ranked defence against the top-ranked offence, both defences stole the show as Reilly and Bombers' quarterback Drew Willy were heading for the hills from the get-go. In the end a misplay off the hands of Nic Grigsby and the ensuing interception return for Willis against his former team held up to be the difference, sending the Bombers to their first loss of the season.

Reilly completed 18 of 31 passing attempts for 192 yards and a touchdown to go with one interception, including a game-sealing 15-yard touchdown pass to AJ Guyton in the fourth quarter. His most impressive contribution however was on the ground, as he escaped from a hungry Bomber pass rush multiple times and gutted out a 10-carry, game-high 96-yard rushing performance.

Running back John White meanwhile continued his emergence for the Double E, rushing for 92 yards on 18 carries and ultimately helping the Eskimos keep Willy and the Bomber offence on the sideline. Guyton meanwhile finished with a game-high 56 receiving yards on seven catches, while National receiver Shamawd Chambers had two grabs for 52 yards.

The Bombers' Willy on the other hand barely completed 50 per cent of his passes in the face of immense pressure all night, completing 14 of 27 passes for just 180 yards and an interception.

The Eskimos won the coin toss and deferred their choice to the second half, putting their top-ranked defence on the field first – and after the teams swapped punts, the decision paid off in a big way.

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Grigsby couldn’t handle the pass in the flat from Willy, and there to intercept the deflection was the former Mayor of Swaggerville himself, Willis. Willis took it back 16 yards to the house, giving the Eskimos an early 7-0 lead and taking some of the bite out of a hostile Blue Bomber crowd.

The defences only asserted their dominance from there, as Bruce Johnson then had his first career interception on the Eskimos’ Reilly to cap off a first quarter that saw a combined 24 offensive yards.

In the second quarter the Esks finally got their offence headed in the right direction, thanks to the elusiveness of Reilly. The 29-year-old escaped steady pressure several times on second down, putting the Esks in scoring position for the first time in the game. A roughing the passer penalty after a second-down stop gave the Esks new life and a fresh set of downs at the two, but two incompletions from Reilly led to a Grant Shaw field goal to cap off a 14-play, seven and a half-minute drive.

Reilly continued to show his ability as an escape artist on his team’s next possession, as he appeared to be bottled up on second down before eluding a swarm of Blue and Gold then sprinting up the middle for a 30-yard gain. That led to another field goal for Shaw, putting the Esks ahead 13-0.

After six two-and-outs in the first half, the Bombers finally found some life on offence when Willy found a man deep in Clarence Denmark for a 50-yard gain. Edmonton’s stingy red-zone defence wouldn’t allow any more however, forcing the Bombers to take three heading into the half.

Reilly gives Esks a leg up against Bombers

Mike Reilly might be a professional quarterback, but he did most of his damage against the Bombers on Thursday on the ground. He had 10 rushes for 96 yards, including a 30-yard run in the second quarter to keep the chains moving all game.

» Mike Reilly Career Stats

The defensive struggle continued in the second half, as the Bombers began to show more signs of moving in the right direction until Nick Moore fumbled following a 17-yard pickup and Willis scooped it up to give the Esks the ball back.

But the Blue and Gold battled back and the battle for field position continued into the fourth quarter with the Eskimos protecting a 13-3 lead. Early in the fourth with the Bombers hanging around, Reilly led the Eskimos on another long offensive drive, one that with the help from a rough play penalty by the Bombers wouldn't end with just a field goal.

Reilly culminated a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive with a delivery to a wide open Guyton, putting the Esks ahead 20-3 with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That marked the game's first offensive touchdown and further silenced the crowd at Investors Group Field.

Shaw added two more field goals, while the Eskimos defence closed out the game with another stellar performance, holding the Bombers out of the end zone and preserving the team's perfect start to the season.

With the win Head Coach Chris Jones moved to 4-0 in his first season with the Eskimos, moving him within a game of Kavis Reed's franchise record of five straight wins to open a head coaching career. He'll try and accomplish the feat next weekend as the first chapter of the Battle of Alberta unfolds in Edmonton next Thursday.

The Bombers meanwhile look to avenge their first loss of 2014 on the road in their first meeting of the season with Kevin Glenn and the BC Lions.

Fan Comments
Looking forward to this Thursday's Battle of Alberta and hoping it's an epic battle since it's on ESPN 2 and I'll be watching. To me the Eskimos look like the real deal but I'm not sure who I'll be pulling for since I'm impressed with the way the Stampeders keep winning despite all their key injuries
July 20, 2014 - 1:52am
Dave Saj
Every bad call and bad bounce of the ball went against the BB and for the ESKS. Nonetheless, BB need to work on tackling. Congrats Edmonton.
July 19, 2014 - 1:27am
als rule
one bubble burst and the other bubble bursts next week!! don't you just love the CFL?!! 1st season ends labour day, 2nd season ends last week of the regular season and the 3rd seaon ends post GC!!
July 18, 2014 - 11:14am
Personally I wouldn't be surprised if the Eskimos upset the Stampeders as they're looking to me like they could be the real deal. Not saying for sure that they will but I wouldn't be surprised if they did
July 21, 2014 - 3:19am
I was surprised by the lack of production by the Bombers' "top-ranked offense". I expected them to have better results (even if not the win) in front of the home town crowd, especially after their come back win in Montreal last week.
July 18, 2014 - 8:19am
Reality is coming to visit next week, Edmonton.
July 18, 2014 - 5:56am
Yes swidzb2 ... because ONE game defines an entire season. Let's hope the Stamps don't lose that game, after all what would "reality" say? "Reality" in fact plays an 18 game schedule. So let the games continue!
July 18, 2014 - 5:17pm
@swidzb2 ... I think reality hit home in Cow Town last night, the Stamps looked awful and weak against a poor Ticat team ... the Stamps finally get to play against a western team and you better hope they play better than last night against a far better Esks D.
July 19, 2014 - 9:07am
Orange & Black
Drew Willy sure came back to earth in a hurry, didn't he? Looked pretty ordinary against a stalwart Eskimos defence.
July 18, 2014 - 4:07am
After seeing them last week and this week I have to admit that I'm impressed with the Eskimos particularly their defence, Mike Reilly and John White. Thought that this would be a closer game then it was. Mike Reilly is freaking Houdini. Both teams need more consistent offences
July 18, 2014 - 3:35am
Great to see the Eskies and Bombers back. Mike Reilly is the best young QB in the League. Great leader!
July 18, 2014 - 2:19am
I enjoyed the game even though it was kind of one-sided because the Bombers kept looking as if they might get it in gear and the Esks had trouble finishing once in the red zone. It kept it close enough for quite a while that a late rally could make it go either way. Neither team had an O line that was able to pass protect very well but Reilly can run and Willy can't (or didn't for whatever reason). Of course he's still new at the game. Both teams' D's look as if they can give any team some trouble and the "new" punter for the Bombers did a good job.
July 18, 2014 - 1:18am
I love how Reilly and Willy have almost identical numbers (the major difference being Reilly's TD) but this article makes it sound like Reilly was way more impressive than Willy through the air. The big difference in this game was the Odell Willis TD and Reilly's scrambling ability, which kept the Bomber defence on the field for far too long. A few breaks going the other way (fumble by Bowman, field goal off the uprights, fumble by Nick Moore) and the game could have easily swung for the Bombers.
July 18, 2014 - 12:47am