SYDNEY'S stuttering season is at serious risk of spiralling out of control, according to coach John Longmire.
The Swans have never missed the finals under Longmire and last failed to qualify for September in 2009, but face the prospect of being outside the top eight by the end of the weekend.
Friday night's 43-point defeat to Essendon was their fourth in the past five weeks, with Collingwood (SCG), Melbourne (MCG), Greater Western Sydney (Spotless Stadium) and Hawthorn (SCG) to come.
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Making matters worse is superstar forward Lance Franklin's ongoing foot and knee issues, which Longmire told reporters would not be solved until the off-season.
He estimated Franklin had completed only 20 minutes' training this year because of the injuries that saw him sit out between rounds six and eight.
"(Franklin's) ability to get himself up and compete has been brilliant, when you consider what he does during the week," Longmire said.
"We can't change that. It's like some of the younger kids – you can't change that either, if they're getting a bit sore.
"We've just got to make sure we concentrate on the areas we can concentrate on.
"We can't give Tommy McCartin a rest or Lance a rest every week or Will Hayward. We need to make sure we can control the things we can control, which is the contest part of it."
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Franklin had just two disposals in the opening half and finished with seven and only two goals opposed to dual All Australian Michael Hurley.
But Longmire's biggest gripe against the Bombers was his side's inability to maintain its competitiveness, highlighting the fact they laid only 45 tackles, including 31 after quarter-time.
Sydney failed to win a centre clearance and scored just one behind in the last quarter, when Essendon blew the final margin out with four goals.
The Bombers' 72-39 inside-50 edge made life difficult for a youthful Swans forward line relying mostly on kids such as Tom McCartin and Ben Ronke behind Franklin.
"We've got to address the competing part of it," the coach said.
"That's ultimately what the contest is built on and then you build everything else from that – then your skills look better, everything looks better off the back of that. But we just stopped."
Sydney has long been known for its penchant for responding when the chips are down, but Longmire conceded this was a very different team.
He also admitted his Swans were again exposed for pace and needed to continue to address that problem beyond Ollie Florent's addition.
WATCH John Longmire's full post-match media conference
"We can (still make the finals), but I feel like we have to do something about it pretty quickly," Longmire said.
"We've got to put the parachute up and stop the fall pretty quickly. We're aware of that – and it's not going to happen the way we played the last quarter tonight.
"There might be a couple of players coming back next week, but they're not all coming back, so we need to make a pretty narrow focus on what we need to get right.
"The competitive side of it is always a starting point and that's what we're going to have to focus on – not that we haven't focused on it, but we have to make a better fist of it."
Among the players potentially available in the coming weeks are Dan Hannebery, Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack, but Sydney may lose Zak Jones, who was reported twice.