Essendon coach Ben Rutten has urged his senior players to stand up and rediscover their best form after a 58-point loss to Sydney left his side with a 2-7 record.
The Bombers were beaten up around the contests as the Swans dominated them in contested possessions, clearances and tackles while also controlling the ball for much of Saturday's 14.21 (105) to 6.11 (47) hammering.
Captain Dyson Heppell, in his 200th match, and leading midfielders Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett combined for two tackles while the Bombers only managed to stick 30 tackles to the Swans' 56.
Dylan Shiel was another senior Bomber to have his colours lowered, finishing with five kicks among his 20 disposals that provided only 69 metres gained.
"Our more senior players are the ones we need to pave the way and shine a light for our younger guys. They didn't do that tonight," Rutten said.
"We've got some inexperienced players in our team but it's the more senior guys that we need to be the ones to get down and do the work and show them the way."
Despite the poor performance, which could have been a worse result if not for some inaccurate goalkicking by the Swans, Rutten insisted that he will back the senior Bombers rather than send them to the reserves to find form.
"We need them. Absolutely, we need them," Rutten said.
"We need to keep backing them in, coaching them hard, being really clear on expectations on what the requirements are and supporting them to get there."
The Bombers will be sweating on an injury to Jye Caldwell after the midfielder was hurt in a marking contest and had to be subbed out.
Sydney defender Tom McCartin crashed into Caldwell as both players appeared to have eyes for the ball while contesting a mark deep in the Bombers' forward line.
"It was an unbelievably courageous act. Jye is a young player who is really brave and has got a real appetite for the contest," Rutten said.
"Unfortunately he's got a bit of an AC [shoulder injury]. He's pretty sore at the moment.
"I don't know the extent of the damage, we'll find out about that in the early part of the week."
Sydney co-captain Callum Mills showed the way throughout with 29 disposals while also gathering game-highs for seven clearances and 13 tackles.
Mills was supported by Chad Warner (career-high 32 disposals), Errol Gulden (26) and James Rowbottom (22) as the Swans emerging midfield outworked and outfought the Bombers onballers.
"When a leader [Mills] sets himself on being the highest-pressure player or the highest-tackle player, and goes out and just goes on the hunt and tries to do that, it sets a good tone for the team," Swans coach John Longmire said.
"I thought it was as good as I've seen him scramble and put pressure on around the ball. For senior players to be able to do that makes a real difference."
Australian Associated Press
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