A SLICK and relentless Essendon has kept Carlton winless from three games, courtesy of an 81-point obliteration at the MCG on Sunday night.
The Bombers were never challenged, piling on seven goals before the Blues got their first eight minutes into the second quarter.
When the final siren sounded, the scoreline was 21.12 (138) to 8.9 (57) with Paul Chapman and Jason Winderlich with four goals each to their names.
In front of a crowd of 62,730 in the first Sunday night home-and-away match in VFL/AFL history to be played at the MCG, the Blues joined the Brisbane Lions, Adelaide and Melbourne as teams to remain winless after three rounds.
How sweet would this have been for Essendon supporters who watched last September as the Blues took their team's place in the finals series?
The Blues' lack of pressure and inability to hit targets in the first quarter was frightening.
To sum things up, they won the clearances by four and the hit-outs by nine, with Robbie Warnock getting first hand to the ball but the Bombers were much better when it hit the ground. Coach Mick Malthouse bluntly labelled the team's performance humiliating.
"Essendon are a very, very talented football side and a very good football side and tonight we allowed them to play with relative ease," Malthouse said afterwards
"Really, that's embarrassing for our football club."
Jake Carlisle, the Bombers' ruck stand-in for the injured Paddy Ryder and Tom Bellchambers, found the ball in space, as did many of his teammates.
While Warnock easily won the hit-outs, Carlisle was the more effective of the big men. Supported by Joe Daniher, who took five marks and went on a few runs in another promising sign for the Bombers' future, their combination did the job in the absence of the genuine ruckmen.
It was Brendon Goddard who took Carlisle's role in the attacking 50, and he shone. In the first half alone, nine of Goddard's 12 possessions came from marks. He took 13 for the game and kicked two goals.
Winderlich scored two first quarter goals; one after marking inside 50 and the other from a turnover when Dylan Buckley kicked errantly across the face of the Blues' defensive goal.
Buckley had another disaster in the second when he found Chapman at centre half-back when the former Geelong forward was all by himself.
The young Blue wasn't alone in missing targets. Captain Marc Murphy was untidy in the first half, Troy Menzel turned it over in defence and gifted Brent Stanton a goal, and Dale Thomas wasn't making an impact when he did get the ball.
At half-time, the margin had blown out to 44 points, with the Blues' inability to hit their own players undoing their 24 to 15 advantage in clearances.
While they had no trouble winning the contested possessions - Andrew Carrazzo racked up 18 contested touches out of his 23 on his return from a calf complaint - they couldn't come near the Bombers on the outside.
Bryce Gibbs was the Blues' major ball-winner with 27 disposals but didn't make a huge impact after another week in which his future at the club was under scrutiny.
Heath Hocking's job on Murphy was significant, as was Jobe Watson's contribution, while Michael Hibberd collected the ball with ease across half-back and Jackson Merrett had 34 touches.
"I thought we were in good shape; we trained well and we were coming off a pretty reasonable game against Hawthorn so I thought we'd do OK but I didn't think we'd do as well as that," Thompson said.
"They came up against a team today that played pretty well, probably the best they could play. Close to the best."
Patrick Ambrose was a late withdrawal with quad soreness after kicking three goals against Hawthorn last week.
He will likely miss a few more games, while the Bombers rate Ryder a very good chance of making the trip to Perth to face Fremantle next week. Bellchambers will play in the VFL either this coming weekend or the next.
The Bombers face a heavy test next Sunday when they encounter the 2013 grand finalists at Patersons Stadium. Coach Ross Lyon was an interested party in the crowd on Sunday night.
If it's any consolation for the Blues, they face a struggling Melbourne next Saturday at the MCG, where both teams will be searching for their first win.
ESSENDON 6.3 10.6 16.8 21.12 (138)
CARLTON 0.3 3.4 6.8 8.9 (57)
Essendon: Winderlich 4, Chapman 4, Hardingham 3, Stanton 3, Goddard 2, Hocking, Heppell, Carlisle, Melksham, Daniher
Carlton: Ellard 2, Menzel 2, Tuohy, Garlett, Henderson, Murphy
Essendon: Hocking, Merrett, Chapman, Carlisle, Goddard, Winderlich, Hibberd
Carlton: Carrazzo, Gibbs, Simpson, Walker
Essendon: Patrick Ambrose (quad) replaced in selected side by Jake Melksham
Essendon: Martin Gleeson replaced Kyle Hardingham at three-quarter time
Carlton: Tom Bell replaced Simon White in the third quarter
Umpires: Fleer, Schmidt, Pannell
Official crowd: 62,730 at the MCG