OTTAWA, Ontario — It wasn’t an easy win for Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos. Then again, they rarely seem to come that way.
Reilly, a 2003 Flathead grad, led Edmonton on a six-play, 64-yard drive early in the fourth quarter to take the lead over the Ottawa Redblacks on Thursday night, and it proved to be the difference in the Eskimos’ 27-20 win, their seventh in a row to start the season. Only one of those victories — a 37-26 triumph over the BC Lions — has come by double digits.
The Eskimos’ 7-0 start is the best for any CFL team since the Montreal Alouettes won their first seven games in 2006. It matches the best start for the Edmonton franchise since 1961. The 2017 team now trails only the 1955 Eskimos, who won their first 10 contests.
Though the score indicated a close game, the statistical separation was chasmic.
Edmonton outgained the Redblacks, who ousted the Eskimos from the playoffs last season, 483-288 and had 27 first downs to Ottawa’s 18.
Riley paced the offense with 384 yards and two touchdowns on 27 of 38 passing. He now ranks among the top 5 in the CFL in every passing category, including completions, yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and yards per game.
The Eskimos also held the ball for more than 36 minutes.
Even so, they found themselves trailing the defending Grey Cup champions heading to the fourth quarter. The late deficit did not last long, however.
Reilly found Chris Getzlaf in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard score with just more than 10 minutes remaining, and the Eskimos’ defense did not allow another score for the remainder of the game. An interception on the last play of the game sealed it for Edmonton.
Reilly led the Eskimos to an early 13-0 lead, but the Redblacks trailed by just three at the half after a big second quarter that was capped by a Brett Maher field goal as time expired in the first half.
Edmonton managed only a field goal in the third quarter before its game-winning score early in the fourth.
The Eskimos’ victory was their second of the year over the Redblacks. They won 23-21 in Ottawa’s trip to Edmonton in Week 4.
Reilly and the Eskimos will look to continue their historic run to open the season at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday on the road against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It will be the first time this season Edmonton has played back-to-back games on the road.