ESSENDON lacked the class to match it with top-of-the-ladder Geelong, as the Bombers fell to another one of the competition's benchmarks on Sunday.
The Bombers lost by 32 points to the Cats but were outplayed for most of the contest and never seriously threatened after half-time.
Lacking key forward targets through injury was an issue faced by coach John Worsfold, but other problems arose throughout the afternoon, with the Bombers run-and-gun game shut down by Geelong and inaccuracy around goal plaguing Essendon.
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The Bombers kicked 7.12 from 49 inside-50 entries (three more than Geelong registered), and the defeat sits along losses to fellow premiership hopefuls Greater Western Sydney in round one and Collingwood on Anzac Day.
Worsfold said it would be fair to say there is a divide between Essendon and the best teams in the AFL after the results, which see them heading into next week's clash with Sydney perched at three wins and four losses.
"If we want to compete with the best teams in the competition, they're going to play that style of game. We matched up in a really tight contested game last week with the Pies. Today we weren't classy enough," he said.
"That's what I would probably put it down to. Our finish was just off, whether that was pressure from Geelong or just that we're not quite at their level yet.
"Some of their ball users looked a level above some of our players. This is not across the board, but we coughed the ball up too many times compared to the pressure we put on the Cats."
Worsfold said the Bombers didn't plan to handball more against the Cats (they had 172 handballs to 199 kicks) but were forced into the game style by the "squeeze" Geelong deployed.
Forwards Joe Daniher, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Matt Guelfi, Mark Baguley and Aaron Francis combined for 2.2, with Jake Stringer the only force in attack as he continued his excellent season with three majors.
Francis, who came into the side for his fourth appearance of the season, missed two straightforward shots that cost him having a larger impact on the game.
"He had a couple of shots at goal in the first half and competed pretty well. But he needs to kick those shots. If you want to be an elite AFL player, we need to hit the scoreboard with goals. Overall, I'd say he did okay. But we're going to hold him to high standards," Worsfold said.
The Bombers have missed Orazio Fantasia's polish around goal the past two weeks, when he has been a late withdrawal in both games due to illness. Worsfold said the speedy forward was on the mend ahead of this week's trip to the SCG.
"He's good. He felt a little bit crook last night but from all accounts he's feeling way better today and may be back to normal," he said.