Rob Vanstone: Defence bails out Saskatchewan Roughriders yet again

Rob Vanstone: Defence bails out Saskatchewan Roughriders yet again
Edmonton Eskimos lose Thanksgiving Day showdown against Roughriders
The Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive end soaked up spotlight as only he could in his teams thrilling 19-12 victory on Monday over the Edmonton Eskimos after snagging a Mike Reilly pass attempt and returning it 49 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

Jeffersons final two yards on route to the end zone werent without flair as he took his time crossing the goal line.

Jeffersons late pick-6 gives Riders thrilling win over Eskimos

“Willie is the type of guy who is going to get pressure on the quarterback and if not, hes going to drop back and try to get his hands on the football. Its not the first time he has done that. Credit to Willie for stepping up in a big-time moment and making that play.”

“I was thinking I should go get me another interception,” said Gainey, who recorded an interception earlier in the game. “I saw the way he threw the ball and he has a strong arm and he threw a rocket. I stood back and I knew I wouldn’t get that one. Luckily I did, because I ended up getting the tackle.”

Willie Jeffersons pick-six lifts Saskatchewan Roughriders over the Edmonton Eskimos

The play wasnt without controversy, however. Reilly was driven to the turf hard by Saskatchewans Zack Evans and Edmonton head coach Jason Maas challenged the play. He felt Evans should have been flagged for roughing the passer. Much to his frustration, the play stood.

“We were only down three when I caught the interception,” Jefferson said. “There was only a minute-some left. I was really trying to take a little bit of time off the clock because I saw that none of the offensive linemen or the quarterback was chasing me.

“It sure looked like (Reillys) head snapped back. (The officials) took an awful long time to look at it… and, in their opinion, it wasnt (a penalty),” said Maas.

“We practise (interception returns), but it doesn’t usually happen in a game,” Jefferson added. “The last couple of weeks, I’ve had an opportunity to catch two and it just so happened that they finished off in the end zone.”

“I know Mike feels like his chin was hit. So, if your chin is getting hit, that means a helmet is hitting it. If it slid up from the chest, I dont know. Apparently that must have been the call.”

A frustrated Reilly said after the game it wasnt up to him to decide. Reilly completed 13-of-27 pass attempts for 222 yards. He was intercepted three times, including twice inside Saskatchewans 20-yard line.

The win improved the Riders record to 10-5 and pushed the team closer to a home playoff game. Saskatchewan sits alone in second place in the CFLs West Division, four points ahead of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who they will face on Saturday in a key divisional matchup. The Riders have won seven of their past eight games.

Saskatchewan is to play the Blue Bombers on Saturday, visit the Stampeders on Oct. 20, and close out the regular season Oct. 27 by playing host to the Lions. The Riders’ third and final bye week is the last week of the regular season.

Edmonton (7-8) lost its fifth consecutive road game and dropped into fifth place in the West. The B.C. Lions are 7-7.

The result improved the Riders’ record to 10-5. They maintain sole possession of second place in the West Division. The Calgary Stampeders (12-2) remain alone in first place after beating the Montreal Alouettes 12-6 on Monday.

“We had a 12-9 lead with two minutes to go and give up a pick-six to get beat. If thats not frustrating, I dont know what else is,” Maas said. “When you have momentum and when you have a lead for most of the game and it comes down to the last minute and 50 seconds and you lose the game because of it, that sucks. Its hard to deal with.”

“That’s just a big play, (being) in the right place at the right time, a great circumstance and the game-winner,” Jefferson said after the Riders moved closer to securing their first home playoff game since 2013.

“We cant dwell on this loss,” Maas said. “It hurts. It sucks. We have to keep fighting. We have three games left and theyre all important now.”

Brett Lauther kicked four field goals for Saskatchewan. Sean Whyte kicked four field goals for the Eskimos.

The Riders offence had scored at least 30 points in each of the past two games in wins over Toronto and Montreal. Their production dried up on Monday, however, with just 281 yards net offence. Quarterback Zach Collaros, despite completing 25-of-38 attempts for 259 yards, did not reach the end zone. He was intercepted once.

It appeared Monday’s game would be decided by the placekickers until Jefferson extended his 6-foot-6 frame to snag a Mike Reilly pass close to the line of scrimmage and took off for the end zone.

Reilly had his favourite target, Duke Williams, back in the lineup on Monday. The CFLs leading receiver left last weeks game with a shoulder injury and it was anticipated he would miss significant time.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders' defensive end soaked up spotlight as only he could in his team's thrilling 19-12 victory on Monday over the Edmonton Eskimos after snagging a Mike Reilly pass attempt and returning it 49 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

Defensive back Ed Gainey tackled Mitchell at Saskatchewan’s eight-yard line, keeping the Eskimos from scoring a touchdown that could have produced a tie with no time remaining.

Jefferson's final two yards on route to the end zone weren't without flair as he took his time crossing the goal line.

The football gods have seemingly looked after the Riders since losing 26-19 to the host Eskimos on Aug. 2. The Riders are 7-1 since that loss, whereas the Eskimos are 2-6.

"Willie is the type of guy who is going to get pressure on the quarterback and if not, he's going to drop back and try to get his hands on the football. It's not the first time he has done that. Credit to Willie for stepping up in a big-time moment and making that play."

The Eskimos almost completed a last-gasp attempt for the win when Reilly tossed a long pass that was caught by Bryant Mitchell on Saskatchewan’s 14-yard line.

The play wasn't without controversy, however. Reilly was driven to the turf hard by Saskatchewan's Zack Evans and Edmonton head coach Jason Maas challenged the play. He felt Evans should have been flagged for roughing the passer. Much to his frustration, the play stood.

Willie Jefferson couldn’t have picked a more opportune time for his second pick-six of the CFL season.

"It sure looked like [Reilly's] head snapped back. [The officials] took an awful long time to look at it … and, in their opinion, it wasn't [a penalty]," said Maas.

Jefferson’s first pick-six took place Sept. 8 during a 32-27 win over the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"I know Mike feels like his chin was hit. So, if your chin is getting hit, that means a helmet is hitting it. If it slid up from the chest, I don't know. Apparently that must have been the call."

Willie Jefferson couldnt have picked a more opportune time for his second pick six of the CFL season.

A frustrated Reilly said after the game it wasn't up to him to decide. Reilly completed 13-of-27 pass attempts for 222 yards. He was intercepted three times, including twice inside Saskatchewan's 20-yard line.

The win improved the Riders' record to 10-5 and pushed the team closer to a home playoff game. Saskatchewan sits alone in second place in the CFL's West Division, four points ahead of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who they will face on Saturday in a key divisional matchup. The Riders have won seven of their past eight games.

Edmonton (7-8) lost its fifth consecutive road game and dropped into fifth place in the West. The B.C. Lions are 7-7.

"We had a 12-9 lead with two minutes to go and give up a pick-six to get beat. If that's not frustrating, I don't know what else is," Maas said. "When you have momentum and when you have a lead for most of the game and it comes down to the last minute and 50 seconds and you lose the game because of it, that sucks. It's hard to deal with."

"We can't dwell on this loss," Maas said. "It hurts. It sucks. We have to keep fighting. We have three games left and they're all important now."

Brett Lauther kicked four field goals for Saskatchewan. Sean Whyte kicked four field goals for the Eskimos.

The Riders' offence had scored at least 30 points in each of the past two games in wins over Toronto and Montreal. Their production dried up on Monday, however, with just 281 yards net offence. Quarterback Zach Collaros, despite completing 25-of-38 attempts for 259 yards, did not reach the end zone. He was intercepted once.

Reilly had his favourite target, Duke Williams, back in the lineup on Monday. The CFL's leading receiver left last week's game with a shoulder injury and it was anticipated he would miss significant time.

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