CALGARY — Trailing by seven points with less than three minutes remaining, the Edmonton Eskimos were rolling.
Having completed a 3rd-and-10 near midfield to sustain what appeared to be a make-or-break drive, head coach Jason Maas then elected to kick a field goal on a 3rd-and-4 situation inside the red zone.
Sean Whyte’s 20-yard chip shot cut Edmonton’s deficit to four points, but after a Calgary first down and subsequent muffed punt return, it was all over: Maas’s Esks would not get the chance to drive for the win in the Western Final.
“Figuring I had a timeout, our defence gets a stop, we kick it deep, pin them deep, (and the) defence gets a stop,” explained Maas of his decision to boot a field goal. “We had a minute or so to go down and score a touchdown and beat them. That was the mindset — ultimately it didn’t work out that way.”
The decision was the main talking point for the remainder of TSN’s broadcast, and the ‘what-if’ question dominated the head coach’s post-game presser.
“I just felt like at that moment, we could kick the field goal, have our defence stand on their head, and get the ball back,” said Maas. “When it doesn’t work, there’s questions to be asked and consequences to it as far as you could lose a ballgame — that was the case.”
The Edmonton play-caller stuck by his late-game decision.
“Will I look back on it and wonder — maybe — but I won’t ever regret it,” said Maas firmly. “It was a faith decision, saying your defence is going to get a stop, your specials will get the ball back and your offence will go down and score. In this one game and one moment, it didn’t — we’ll all live with it, and it’ll go down as a loss.”
Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly agreed with his head coach’s decision.
“The decision was made based on the faith we’d get a stop and get the ball back,” affirmed Reilly. “Given what we’ve done with less than a minute on the clock — offensively, when we need to do stuff — it was just faith that we’d get the ball back with a minute left.”
Edmonton’s all-star quarterback understands how some could question the call following the game’s outcome.
“Everyone is going to question it in hindsight, but it was based on winning a football game,” continued Reilly. “At the end of the day, if we get the ball back with 45 seconds left, I know we’re going to go down and score. (But) that’s part of the game, it’s the way it goes.”
Stampeders linebacker Alex Singleton had a very different opinion of Maas’s controversial play call.
“I thought they were disrespecting our offence,” said Calgary’s leading tackler bluntly. “To think they could come out and stop them, after (we’d rushed) for 150 yards…to think they were going to stop us with a minute and a half left was a bad call in my opinion.”
One thing is certain: The decision, combined with other late-game factors like Jerome Messam’s crunchtime first down and Jamill Smith’s subsequent muffed punt return, contributed to the outcome of Sunday’s Western Final.
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