JOHN Worsfold has been queried over his creativity in the Essendon coaches' box.

But in an important game in the context of his tenure at the Bombers, the coach pulled out one of his best moves in Sunday's 41-point win over Carlton.

Operation 'Stop Patrick Cripps' was crucial to the Bombers securing the win over the Blues and, in turn, avoiding another week of intense questioning on their direction and the future of Worsfold at the club.  

BOMBERS SINK BLUES Full match coverage and stats

Dylan Clarke had played only one game at AFL level before the clash – last year's round nine win over Geelong – but his elite endurance and strong VFL form saw Worsfold turn to him to stop perhaps the best player in the competition. 

It was a card few saw coming. Clarke took his chance, playing a pivotal role in his side's pressure-relieving 11.8 (74) to 4.9 (33) win and helping keep Carlton to its lowest score of the season.

Cripps, who had averaged 28.7 disposals this season before the game in a dominant campaign that has him one of the Brownlow Medal favourites, collected just 11 touches – his lowest tally since 2017. 

For Worsfold, who doesn't often deploy taggers, it was a shift in thinking. But it worked and was crucial in the Bombers' fifth win of the year, as Clarke nullified the Blues gun and gathered 23 disposals and 10 tackles himself. 

UNDER PRESSURE Bolton won't deviate from plan despite drubbing

It wasn't a win that will stop discussion about the Bombers' direction and Worsfold's place as coach, nor inspire too much confidence for the rest of their campaign. Indeed, in some ways the Bombers had more to lose than gain heading into the clash against the bottom-placed Blues.

But it was a win nevertheless, in a game that has often caused trouble for Essendon (under Worsfold it lost to the wooden-spooners in 2017 and 2018, and already lost to the then 18th-placed Sydney earlier this year). It keeps them within touching distance of the top eight ahead of next week's bye.

Captain Dyson Heppell led the way for the Bombers with 36 disposals in the midfield, continuing to drive his side forward, while Darcy Parish continued his strong form with 31 disposals and 10 clearances. 

Young midfielders Matt Guelfi (21 disposals) and Andrew McGrath (32) also performed well, while defenders Michael Hurley (28 disposals, 12 marks) and Cale Hooker (31, 11 marks) had a field day in the back half. 

It was hard to find winners for the Blues. Ruckman Matthew Kreuzer had 21 disposals, 32 hitouts and eight clearances, Nic Newman provided some run and carry, and youngsters Sam Walsh and David Cuningham, who both had 21 disposals, tried hard. 

STICK TO THE PROCESS Worsfold still chasing flag glory

The scrappy and ugly contest lived up to its billing as a 'mockbuster'. Only a point separated the sides at quarter-time, in Essendon's advantage, but the game was played largely between the forward arcs. 

Poor skills and, at times, worse decisions punctuated a term that Carlton should have had the better of, given its dominance in inside 50 entries (17 to 11).

Essendon wrestled back control in the second term, with goals from Kyle Langford, Parish and then a sharp late shot from Jayden Laverde helping the Bombers to an 18-point lead at the main break.

Carlton managed only two behinds for the quarter, and it was difficult to see how it could peg back the gap, particularly with Cripps struggling to make an impact.  

Two goals to Charlie Curnow in the third term gave the Blues some confidence and broke their scoring drought, but Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti chipped in with two majors of his own at the other end to steer the Bombers to a 21-point lead at the final change. 

And when McDonald-Tipungwuti dribbled through a left-foot kick in the opening moments of the final quarter, Essendon's job was done.

Essendon: Defender Patrick Ambrose required medical attention in the rooms in the second quarter seemingly for a leg complaint, but he returned in the third term and played out the game. 
Carlton: Former Cat Darcy Lang limped from the field in the first quarter with a corked thigh but was able to see out the contest.

Carlton hosts the in-form Brisbane at Marvel Stadium next Saturday, while Essendon has the bye in round 12, returning the following week to face Hawthorn.

Captain Dyson Heppell receives the Madden Cup from brothers Simon and Justin. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON   2.3   5.4   8.5   11.8 (74)
CARLTON     2.2   2.4   4.8   4.9 (33)

 McDonald-Tipungwuti 3, Laverde 2, Parish 2, Baguley 2, Heppell, Langford
Carlton: C.Curnow 2, Kreuzer, McKay

Heppell, Parish, Hurley, Guelfi, Clarke, McGrath
Carlton: Kreuzer, Walsh, Dow, Newman, Cuningham

Carlton: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Power, Stevic, Mollison

Official crowd: 50,423 at the MCG