After losing all three regular-season games they played against the Calgary Stampeders, the Eskimos suffered a 43-18 defeat on Sunday to their Alberta rivals in the CFL West Division final at McMahon Stadium.
"Unfortunately we didn't play our best football tonight," said first-year Edmonton coach Chris Jones. "Calgary's a very, very well coached and very good football team. You've got to give all the credit to them. They came out with a good game plan. They executed and kudos to them."
The Eskimos trailed 29-4 after two quarters as kicker Hugh O'Neill accounted for all of Edmonton's scoring with a 46-yard single and a 42-yard field goal.
Edmonton mounted a bit of a comeback in the third quarter as quarterback Mike Reilly tossed touchdown passes to Paris Jackson and Adarius Bowman. He later left the game after taking a big hit from Calgary defensive lineman Shawn Lemon.
"I'm not really sure what happened, but when I went to stand up I just couldn't put any pressure on it," said Reilly, who was wearing a boot cast on his right leg after the game. "We'll run a bunch of tests tomorrow and find out exactly what happened."
Reilly completed 20-of-33 passes for 216 yards to go with two touchdowns and an interception, while Nichols went 9-for-15 for 92 yards in a relief appearance.
"It hurts," said Reilly of the disappointing loss. "We put a ton of work in as have all the other teams. We've got a very good football team and today Calgary was obviously the better team by quite a good margin. They played extremely well and they controlled the game from the first to the last snap and they deserve to be going to the Grey Cup."
After going 4-14 and missing the playoffs last year, the Eskimos bounced back to finish with the CFL's second-best record of 12-6 this season before downing the Saskatchewan Roughriders 18-10 in the West Division semifinal on Nov. 16.
"It's a heck of a turnaround," said second-year defensive back Aaron Grymes. "I think there's a lot of positives we can take from this season. We've got a lot to build on, but at the end of the day it didn't end how we wanted it to. It was kind of embarrassing."
Despite making great strides with Jones as coach, the Eskimos were unable to find a way to beat the Stamps, who advanced to next Sunday's Grey Cup at BC Place in Vancouver against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
"Calgary executed and did everything they had to do to win the game," said Jackson, who finished with seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. "I'm happy for them. I hope they win it all for the west."
Based on their improved play this season, Reilly said the Eskimos will continue to build on that success next season.
"Rome wasn't built in a day," he said. "Getting to the Western final is a hell of a lot better than sitting at home when the playoffs start like we did last year. We fell short of our goals, but it was still something to build off of, for sure.
"I think we're going to have a good team for a long time to come. To get to where we want to go, we've got to be able to beat teams like Calgary. Hopefully we'll use it as a learning experience and hopefully we'll see them again next year in the final. Hopefully it'll be on our terms at our place."