August 20, 2014

Campbell: Winning ugly is still winning

On Monday, Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly wasn’t in a very good mood. 

Returning to work following a two-game, eight-day Eastern road trip, he noticed an unsettling sight as he walked into Commonwealth Stadium.

The Eskimos logo, which can be found on the side of the indoor field house next door to the stadium, was unusually covered up. 

Tuesday marked the first time the Eskimos practised back home at Commonwealth Stadium since July 23, and yes the Eskimos logo could be seen shining brightly as the Green and Gold reclaimed their home.

A 33-23 win over the Montreal Alouettes began the road trip and was followed up by a 10-8 over the Ottawa REDBLACKS.  Yes that’s right, 10-8. 

“Ugly win but I’ll take it,” said defensive end Odell Willis on his twitter feed following the game. 

Did the 10-8 score bother Eskimos head coach Chris Jones?

“No,” Jones said.  “I mean we get paid to win football games and that’s what we worry about. If we win 3-0 or if we win 30-0 it’s a win. It would be certainly nice to win by 30 but if it requires that we win 3-0 then that’s what we get paid to do.”

The old saying “call the cops, they just stole this game” would have been very appropriate in Ottawa.

The Eskimos were very fortunate not be down by two or maybe even three scores by halftime if the REDBLACKS hadn’t made so many mistakes. Their receivers dropped passes including a costly drop by Onrea Jones at the Eskimos goal line in the second quarter.

Quarterback Henry Burris couldn’t hit open receivers on a couple of occasions and the REDBLACKS couldn’t cash in off of multiple Eskimos turnovers throughout the game.

Above all the biggest mistake made was letting a good team like the Eskimos hang around.

The 2014 Eskimos have shown a different mindset this season from years past. Through the mistakes, and there were plenty of them, the Esks still show a mental and physical toughness which exudes a strong belief that no matter what the situation is, the team believes they can win.

It wasn’t until the final drive of the game that the Eskimos finally wrestled control of the game when a turnover put the ball on the Edmonton nine yard line with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Slotback Adarius Bowman describes what the feeling was like on the sidelines just before the offence stepped on the field for their final push.

“I just remember Mike (Reilly) standing on the sidelines, our defence was out there working,” Bowman described.  “We got that turnover and I remember calming myself down and Mike said somebody has got to make plays.  I think at that moment I said to myself that I can be that guy right now.”

Bowman had three catches for 46 yards which was half of his 92 yard total for the game.

A ten-play drive totaling 83 yards ending with 27-yard field goal by Grant Shaw with 20 seconds left in the game that sealed the win.

Bowman wanted to be a playmaker and he delivered.  Reilly showed the leadership and tenacity to keep drives alive. The offensive line held up for their quarterback. Running back Kendial Lawrence kept the football safe in setting up the field goal.  And it all started with another key play by the defence that has been making plays all season long.

There are some bad habits creeping in, which the Eskimos need to fix and soon as the schedule is about to get much tougher. 

This team still takes too many penalties while the offence has only scored 13 points in their last six quarters and no touchdowns. After posting a plus-10 turnover ratio in the first four games of the season, the Eskimos are minus-eight in that category which included two turnovers in the red zone last Friday.

Now that the Eskimos are into the middle third of the season, it’s the time to start improving on the X’s and O’s part of their game but let’s use last year as a reference point.  It’s better to fix your problems on the back of a 6-1 record than a 1-6 record.

You need talent to win football games but if you don’t have the right attitude and especially team toughness, talent won’t get you very far.