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Title - Frederico Sanmartin
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Federico Sanmartin is the Edmonton Eskimos' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Federico was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Eskimos blog - Green and Gold Yardstick. He is an avid follower of both the CFL and his hometown Eskimos. Having followed the game closely for over two decades, you can contact him at fsanmartin@ourhometown.ca as he prepares to follow the Esks en route to the centennial Grey Cup match in Toronto.
CFL - Esks fall prey to Leos
Federico Sanmartin
OurHometown.ca

CFL - Esks fall prey to Leos
Through twelve weeks there is no doubt as to who the kings of the CFL jungle are. At the moment they’re wearing orange. The BC Lions improved to 9-3 following a 19-18 victory over the now 5-7 Edmonton Eskimos, at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.
PHOTO CREDIT - EdmontonEskimos.com

Edmonton - Sep. 22, 2012 - Through 12 weeks this season there is no doubt as to who the kings of the CFL jungle are. At the moment they’re wearing orange. The BC Lions improved to a league best 9-3 following a 19-18 last minute victory over the Esks Saturday evening. The loss was the fourth in a row for the Green and Gold, dropping their record to 5-7 (good for last place in the West).

The game followed a familiar refrain for the Esks from this past month: a strong first quarter start that eventually fizzles out leading to a loss. Once again the defence fell prey to a strong performance from the opposition running back. The Lions Andrew Harris finished with 181 yards from scrimmage, including 103 yards rushing. Other familiar themes:

• Another very ordinary performance at quarterback. Following an encouraging start where QB Steven Jyles went 9 of 10 in the first quarter and a 27 yard touchdown toss to receiver Cary Koch in the second, the Esks’ much maligned signal caller went 5 of 13 when it mattered most in the second half. Overall he finished the game 17 of 27 for 222 yards. 30 minutes of work does not cut it in the CFL or any other sport for that matter.

• Once again the ground game was an issue with only 12 carries total between running backs Hugh Charles and Cory Boyd. Charles was impactful on the scoring drive in the second quarter that led to his 4-yard touchdown run. It remains a bit of a mystery as to why the running game isn’t more of a tool in the offence’s arsenal. Charles’ touchdown gave the Esks a 15-3 lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

• A last minute 45 yard Paul McCallum field goal was the difference. It was the Esks’ third loss by two points or less in the last four games.

• The oft-criticized Esks defence did its part limiting the Lions’ offence to just a single touchdown (Geroy Simon’s 100th career TD) and two critical fumbles. However, it could not make the plays when it mattered most after the Esks scored their only points of the second half on a 40 yard Grant Shaw FG to take a precious 18-16 lead with under three minutes to go.

If the CFL is about parity and symmetry then it would make sense that there needed to be a team in the west that could match the absolute craziness and anarchy that is the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Enter the 2012 version of the Edmonton Eskimos. Arguably this team will go down as one of the worst in the storied history of the Green and Gold.

Many things have started to become abundantly clear in 2012. First off, Steven Jyles cannot win a game on his own and perhaps it was grossly unfair for the club to ask both the defence and special teams to carry it all season. Lost in Grant Shaw’s struggles is a cover team that hasn’t exactly excelled as of late. Case in point was Tim Brown’s return off the opening kick off that set the Lions up past their own 50 yard line to start the game. And of course there was the special teams gaffe from last week as the first half wound down in Hamilton.

There is a stubbornness, or more accurately, a complete unwillingness to run the football even as this formula has proven successful. On their second touchdown march, it was Charles’ running ability that opened up the bootleg Jyles used to find receiver Nate Coehoorn on a big play inside the Lions ten-yard line. And why doesn’t Jyles run more often for that matter?

As good as this defence has been this year for the most part, it is also proving insufficient to stop the run. Opposing running backs have racked up some large yardage throughout the season, ironic in so far as the Esks refuse to acknowledge their own potential running game. The Esks are having to try and win games in the final minute because the defence is breaking down late in games. Fatigue is more than likely a major contributor, but to say it’s the only reason would be a bit understated.

Never mind playoffs, the team will need to answer some serious questions in the final third of the season. If Matt Nichols is the future, does the team hand him the ball the remaining six games and see what he can do? With an offensive “advisor” looking over his shoulder, are Marcus Crandell’s days as offensive coordinator numbered? Given the results, this may well be true. Can Kavis Reed actually coach or is he simply a mouthpiece of emotion? Nobody is disputing the refreshing change he has been. But it still begs the question, is he in fact over his head? Eric Tillman has a lot to answer for in this debacle of a season. Question is, when do the answers come? There are a number of players brought in that show flashes of brilliance but these are nowhere near enough to make them game changers.


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