Eskimos vow to cut down on penalties against Lions
With last Sunday's CFL Western semifinal in the balance, Edmonton Eskimos offensive tackle Chris Patrick killed a drive after being flagged for throwing Stampeder Eric Fraser to the turf and delivering a forearm shiver to the back of his head.
A week earlier, Patrick killed another drive in a four-point game when he locked up with a Saskatchewan linebacker Chris Graham, ran him 10 yards off the field and into a blistering-hot sideline heater.
The six-foot-five, 305-pound former San Francisco 49er has become the poster player for an Eskimo team that will play the B.C. Lions in Sunday's West Division final despite leading the CFL in both brain-cramp penalties and undisciplined fouls.
Patrick said he's just doing his job.
"As an offensive lineman you're taught to finish your blocks," he said, dressing at his locker before practice.
"[A penalty] is one of those things you want to try to avoid, but also you want to be physical."
The Eskimos defeated the Stampeders 33-19 in the semifinal despite taking eight penalties, three for unnecessary roughness.
That's par for the course for a team that had 46 roughing calls in the regular season, most in the CFL.
They were also the dubious league leaders on procedure penalties, with 57. And only Saskatchewan, with 13 time-count violations, had more than Edmonton's 11.
Still the double-E finished with a record of 11-7.
But on Sunday, they'll go to B.C. Place to play another 11-7 squad, but one that beat them three games out of four, allowed the fewest points per game (21.4), took the fewest penalties (127), the fewest roughing penalties (19), and forced opposing offences into the most two-and-out drives (119).
Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray said undisciplined play against B.C. could prove lethal.
"Penalties have hurt us in a lot of situations throughout this year," he said.
"We've been able to overcome a lot of it, but when you play a good team that doesn't take a lot of penalties it will come back to get you."
He said the Eskimos know they have to play smarter.
So why don't they? he was asked.
"I don't know," he said, then laughed. "I haven't got a roughing play all year."
Discipline comes from inside
That kind of discipline, he said, has to come from inside.
"Just be smart and know the situation and play between the whistles," he said. "Anything that goes on after, sometimes you just gotta walk away."
The 2011 Eskimos aren't known for turning the other cheek.
Twenty-eight times they were called for unnecessary roughness. Only Montreal was worse.
They were flagged for grabbing the face mask 10 times, matching Saskatchewan for worst in the league.
They roughed up the passer eight times. Only Calgary was worse.
They were flagged 9.7 times a game for an average of 86.3 yards. Only Winnipeg was worse.
"It just shows we play hard," said linebacker Corbin Sharun. "Sometimes you're going to get called on stuff and sometimes you're not. That's how we are as a defence. That's how we are as a team."
Linebacker Rod Davis said controlled violence can, at times, be counterintuitive.
"You can't tell somebody to attack and then don't attack," said Davis. "We're not going to dial it back [against the Lions]. "We're just going to play our game, but play a lot smarter."
The Eskimos also need to fix the little things.
The offence was flagged an eye-popping 89 times in the regular season. The Toronto Argonauts were a distant second at 65.
B.C. was the best with just 43.
Offensive lineman Greg Wojt said an injury-riddled front five hasn't helped.
"As an offensive line you definitely want some continuity," said Wojt.
"It really just depends on the game. Some games you don't have things clicking."
Head coach Kavis Reed said numbers don't tell the whole story.
He noted that Winnipeg is the league's worst overall offender (191 penalties for 1,717 yards) but is hosting the Eastern final Sunday against Hamilton.
"I don't read penalty stats that much," said Reed, though he added: "The undisciplined ones in terms of unnecessary roughness are the ones I really address."