COLLINGWOOD captain Scott Pendlebury says his team's 64-point loss to Essendon was "embarrassing", but vows the Magpies will not give up their tenuous hold on a top-eight spot without a fight.
After round 12, the Magpies sat fourth on the ladder, but their loss to the Bombers on Sunday was their fourth in the past five rounds and sent them plunging to eighth, just percentage ahead of ninth-placed Gold Coast and a game ahead of their next opponent, 10th-placed Adelaide.
Pendlebury told AFL.com.au that part of him would have loved to take on the Crows 30 minutes after the final siren sounded on Sunday.
But the Magpies skipper said his team's bye this weekend as part of a split round 18 had probably come at a good time.
"We can review the game, learn from it, train really well, fix up the mistakes, get refreshed and it's going to be on against Adelaide," Pendlebury said.
When asked whether the 'real' Magpies were the top-four contender they had seemed five weeks ago or the borderline top-eight team they were now, Pendlebury said they were "a finals side".
"I'll be disappointed if we don't play finals, but at the moment it can go one of two ways," he said.
"We can crack it and say it's too hard or we can dig our heels in and get ready for a fight because we're in the eight and someone's got to take that spot off us.
"We're not going to give it up."
Pendlebury said Collingwood's biggest problem over the past five rounds had been its inability to win the contested ball and clearances.
The Bombers won the contested possession count 139-119 on Sunday and the clearances 40-30.
"If I was an opposition coach, I'd say, 'Just beat them in contested ball and you'll win the game of footy'," Pendlebury said.
It's pretty obvious."
Not surprisingly, Pendlebury says arresting this concerning trend will be the Pies' top focus over the next fortnight.
"It all starts from winning the contested ball," he said.
"If you can get your hands on it more than they can, you're giving your forwards a chance and at the moment we're not really giving our forwards a chance.
"We're also leaving our defenders pretty vulnerable with all the ball that's being put their way.
"Today was embarrassing."