EDMONTON -- After a tough week away from home, the Edmonton Eskimos return to Commonwealth Stadium to meet with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night in a pivotal Week 3 matchup for both teams.
For Winnipeg it means getting out of an 0-2 funk and re-gaining its defensive dominance of 2011 that led to the birth of Swaggerville. For the hometown Esks, it means getting on track offensively in the wake of a one-point performance against the Riders.
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A week after starting quarterback Buck Pierce started to find success under centre in a high-scoring affair in Montreal, the 30-year-old pivot will lead his offence in a contest against one of the league’s best defences through two weeks.
Pierce will try to solve the same defence that spoiled Ricky Ray’s return to Edmonton by holding the Argos pivot to just 15 points, as well as the one that made the dangerous trio of Darian Durant, Weston Dressler, and Chris Getzlaf look rather ordinary a week after they broke out in Hamilton.
The Bombers’ quarterback shrugged off an injury to play Montreal last week, after being bounced from the game against BC with just three completions on nine attempts for 11 yards.
That didn’t keep him down though, as he suited up to play against the Als and showed progress, throwing for 255 yards and a touchdown while being able to keep the offence moving through most of the game.
If not for turnovers – Pierce fumbled twice and was also picked off – the Bombers would have had a good shot at the win against their division rival.
Head Coach Paul LaPolice also took heat after the game for his decision to go for a third down near the goal line with his team trailing by 11 points. He stood up for his decision earlier this week.
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“I know in the textbook when you’re down 11, you kick a field goal, but sometimes there are other factors that go into that,” LaPolice told Bluebombers.com. “I know people said that’s the wrong call, I think with more information it’s the right call.”
In the end, it was the missed third-down conversion that ended up being the dagger for the Bombers’ hopes of getting their first win, but there were other contributors in the loss. Part of that was to do with their struggles on the defensive side of the ball, something that’s been rare in Bomberland in recent years.
While losing Odell Willis and Joe Lobendahn put a dent in the Bombers’ front-seven, the team still boasts one of the league’s top secondaries, with stars like Jonathan Hefney, Jovon Johnson, and Alex Suber.
With those guys in the lineup, the Bombers defence should be capable of bouncing back against anyone.
The Esks, meanwhile, will be happy to be back in the familiar confines of Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night to battle a Bombers squad as their hungry defence looks to feed its appetite against Pierce and the Bombers’ offence.
JC Sherritt had his second strong performance in a row, recording seven tackles and giving him 18 through two games this season, to lead another impressive outing from a unit that continues to turn heads around the league.
The Esks held the Riders out of the end zone until later on in the fourth quarter, giving up just six points in the first half and pitching shutout football in the second half through the first 15 minutes. That gave Head Coach Kavis Reed’s team a chance to win the game right up until the end, but it was all for naught.
“That was not a good performance, still a very sour taste in my mouth about it,” Reed told Esks.com. “We have to do things that allow us to get better results, which means making some personnel moves.”
The kind of moves that may entail remains uncertain, especially after a season-ending injury to star receiver Adarius Bowman, who tore ligaments in his ACL and MCL on Sunday night trying to make a tackle on a late-game interception.
Still, Reed said that’s part of the game, and with or without Bowman his team has to focus on getting back on track an offence that produced only 137 yards of offence and just a single point in last Sunday’s outing at Mosaic Stadium.
“It’s football, we have to pick up our boot straps and someone has to step in and play, we can’t make any excuses,” he said.
|The last time they met|
Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011
Edmonton 24 – Winipeg 10
Buck Pierce was picked off three times and held to just 143 yards, as the Eskimos stormed to 24-10 win over the Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium. Ricky Ray completed 20 of 29 passing attempts for 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while also being picked off twice. Jerome Messam also played a big role with 74 yards on just 11 carries to go with one rushing touchdown.
One player that will look to take advantage will be non-import receiver and sixth overall pick in the 2012 CFL Draft, Shamawd Chambers, who made his first career CFL catch on Sunday against the Riders in a three-catch, 22-yard effort.
“He’s definitely shown that he can play at this level,” Reed told Esks.com on Wednesday. “He was very patient, he did the things we asked him to do, he ran his routes at the proper depth, caught the ball when the ball was thrown to him . . . I’m very happy with the things he did last week and he may get drawn in this week.”
With Greg Carr and Fred Stamps in the mix as well, the Esks still have a number of viable weapons at the disposal of quarterback Jyles, and should expect to sustain longer drives and keep their defence better rested this weekend.
That’ll likely mean having to find more success in the running game, whether that comes from Jyles or second-year Eskimos’ running back Hugh Charles. Together they combined for just 11 carries and 57 yards on the ground, and despite a solid average could never find consistency.
“We have to be more methodical,” said Reed. “We want to make certain that we can control the time of possession, even when we won against Toronto we lost the time of possession battle and that’s one of the things that’s been a moniker for us. Even if we’re not scoring points, the time of possession will allow us eventually to wear down their defence hopefully and be able to score points late.”
Last year Jyles had his second highest career rushing yards total, with 429 yards on 53 rushes despite starting just eight games.
With Edmonton’s defence shaping up to be one of the league’s best, Jyles’ ability to make plays both with his legs and his arms to ultimately sustain drives will determine whether the Esks can have success against a hungry Bombers team.
Kickoff is at 9 P.M. ET and can be seen live on Friday Night Football on TSN.