EDMONTON — It was one of those games where they could have just shaken hands at the half.
Mike Reilly ran in a pair of quarterback keepers as the Edmonton Eskimos secured a playoff spot, destroying the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 41-9 on Monday.
With the win, the Eskimos improved to 10-5, the 38th 10-plus win season in franchise history. Reilly said it was nice to get the playoff berth locked down, although it is a home date that the squad is really seeking.
“It was one of our goals, for sure, so we’ve achieved that. But there’s a lot of goals left on that board as well and next week now becomes an even bigger game and they’re all just going to continue to be like that the rest of the year,’’ he said. “We’re happy that we clinched, but that’s not where the goals for our season end. We’ve got a lot of work left to do, but it’s a lot better feeling than it was about a year ago around here.’’
The Eskimos led 37-0 at the half and head coach Chris Jones said it was a fine line between continuing to work on what the team needs to and running up the score.
“I told Mike (Reilly) at halftime, just run the plays like it’s 0-0 because we’re ramping up trying to get into the playoffs and make sure that we’re clicking,’’ he said. “We weren’t ever trying to run up the score and embarrass an opponent. Especially (Winnipeg head coach) Mike O’Shea, he’s a good friend of mine.’’
The Blue Bombers lost their sixth straight and seventh of their last eight games to fall to 6-9 after a 5-1 start to the season.
“It was a horrible feeling getting down that bad,’’ said Bombers slotback Nick Moore. “We’ve had a lot of tough games and close games that we have lost. I don’t really know what has happened.’’
O’Shea said his team was simply slow off the start, and are in a precarious position as a result.
“I felt that we didn’t have the right stuff, the right plan,’’ he said. “I thought we were out-coached in the first half. In all three phases, it seemed like nothing we were doing offensively was working.
“The players are frustrated enough to try and make a change. They understand that these are all must-win games for us now. We have to win our next three.’’
The Eskimos struck first with six minutes remaining in the opening quarter as they marched competently downfield before capping off the drive on a one-yard keeper by backup quarterback Pat White to make it 7-0.
A minute later the Eskimos had the ball back in scoring position as Bombers’ back Paris Cotton was stripped of the ball by Almondo Sewell and Edmonton’s Alonzo Lawrence scooped it up at the Winnipeg 29-yard line. The turnover led to a 21-yard Hugh O’Neill field goal.
Winnipeg’s offence for the first quarter was minus one yard.
Edmonton increased its lead to 14-0 on a missed field goal early in the second quarter and a successful 33-yard kick six minutes in.
The Blue Bombers looked to have caught a break with six minutes remaining as Edmonton punt returner Kendial Lawrence fumbled on his own 22-yard line with Winnipeg’s Carl Volny recovering.
However, on the next play, Odell Willis stripped the ball out of quarterback Drew Willy’s hands and it bounced around until it was picked up by Dexter McCoil who escaped several tackle attempts in an improbable 88-yard run into the end zone to put the Eskimos up 21-0. It was Edmonton’s seventh defensive touchdown this season.
The Eskimos kept coming and added to their totals with just under three minutes left in the first half as Reilly scored on a one-yard plunge.