August 23, 2013

Campbell: Moral victories not enough for Eskimos

If you look up “Moral Victory” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, you will find this definition:

“An actual defeat regarded as a virtual victory because of the narrowness of the margin or because of some circumstance that gives satisfaction or hope.”

Sounds very soothing actually, and it kind of gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

If it were only that simple.  

The Eskimos lost their fifth straight game last week in Toronto falling 36-33 to the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts.  After the game, slotback Fred Stamps who picked up 173 receiving yards summed up the loss.

Most Important Statistic

“There’s some positives to build off of but the one statistic that really matters is not passing yards, it’s not completion percentage, it’s not touchdowns, it’s wins, and we haven’t got those,”

– Mike Reilly, QB

“This is where we’re going to have to watch the tape and put this behind us,” Stamps said.  

“I know it’s starting to sound like a broken record but we got put it behind us. We have a really good team coming in with Saskatchewan and they’re playing really good football.  We can’t just keep worrying about this week, we just need to have a great week of practice and just prepare for Saskatchewan.”

And so began another exercise at the beginning of this week of trying to find the right formula which will hopefully lead the Eskimos to that elusive victory. The team has played much better football from an offensive standpoint, averaging 27.3 points per game during that time span.  

Quarterback Mike Reilly has passed for 1,084 yards, six touchdowns, one interception, completing 67 per cent of his passes for a 116 QB rating.

Nice numbers for sure, but Reilly says the only number that matters is the win-loss column.

“We’ve been doing some good things and we’ve grown up a lot in the last three weeks,” Reilly explained. 

“And there’s some positives to build off of but the one statistic that really matters is not passing yards, it’s not completion percentage, it’s not touchdowns, it’s wins, and we haven’t got those.”

In the exercise of evaluating, there is no question that Reilly has been turning some heads lately.  He morphed into what appears to be a legitimate CFL quarterback.  

Reilly is making better decision, not throwing the ball into dangerous areas.  His leadership abilities have been tremendous and you can tell because receivers have been making numerous clutch catches as of late.

The offence has moved from last to sixth in total yards and average yards per game.  The passing game has moved from near the bottom of the CFL to third most in the league in both passing yards, and average passing yards per game.

There is no denying the Eskimos offence has take some leaps forward ,however the group is still searching for the that 60 minute effort.  The Eskimos were outscored 16-0 in the third quarter by the Argos.  There is a lack of enthusiasm when the second half starts and head coach Kavis Reed says you just can’t come out flat.

“We can’t come from behind, we can’t put ourselves in that situation,” Reed said.  

“I believe we were down by 17 going in to the fourth quarter and that is not good for a young football team.  You are going to put yourselves in a situation where you are not aborting the run but you limit your play book and when you do that.  Now you are in a situation where you can’t make a mistake defensively because if you make a mistake, they are going to have an oppourtunity to score a touchdown, or put points on the board which puts the game away.”

The defence hasn’t helped, as pointed out last week in this space.

The defence is also still searching for that 60 minute effort.

The locker room remains upbeat despite their record.  Reed still has a very strong following among his players.  They believe they are close to a victory and we are at the point in the season where teams who lose close games should start winning them.  

This team needs a win to validate their belief.  It won’t be easy over the next three games as the Eskimos have the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then back-to- back against the Calgary Stampeders for the Labour Day series.

Some fans remain patient and some fans see patience as a curse word.  Bottom line, Reilly knows what the fans want but he stresses that the players badly want the same thing.

“We got a great fan base; our fans want us to win.  Nobody wants to win (more) than the guys in this locker room.  I don’t care if it’s a guy who’s been a season ticket holder for the past 30 years; the guys in this team know those expectations, they know how bad the fans want a win so we want a win.”

Moral victories can stay in the dictionary.