Sydney coach John Longmire concedes his struggling side is carrying too many passengers as it faces the possibility of missing the AFL finals for the first time during his tenure.
The Swans have plummeted to ninth and have a torturous stretch of games remaining against four other finals aspirants in Collingwood (3rd home), Melbourne (6th, away), Greater Western Sydney (5th, away) and Hawthorn 7th, home).
They haven't missed the finals since 2009 and that was the only time since 2002 they haven't advanced beyond the home and away season.
Sydney have dropped four of their last five games and kicked just one behind to Essendon's 4.8 in a miserable final quarter of their last game.
Longmire adopted fighting parlance on Monday to underline the choice facing his players.
"We've been thrown out of the ring; we've got a choice of whether we want to get back in the ring and stand up or not," Longmire said.
While some pundits have slammed the Swans game style as predictable, Longmire insisted their form slump was due to getting away from their trademark unrelenting pressure.
He pointed to 41 missed tackles and a 0-6 clearance count against his side in the last quarter of the Essendon clash as evidence.
"There were very few good players so it is a matter of all shouldering the load and taking a turn. And there's too much being left to too few and that's been over the last two weeks," Longmire said.
"Three weeks ago we played one of our best games against North Melbourne and the last two weeks we've just dropped away considerably and that isn't acceptable to us and we need to do something about it."
One player Longmire defended was star key forward Lance Franklin, who has kicked just two goals across his last two games, but hasn't trained much through the season due to niggling fitness issues.
"He still does a remarkable job being able to get himself in the best possible condition week-in week-out to play at a competitive level during the game," Longmire said.
He said veterans Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack each had a "real chance" of returning from injury for Saturday's home clash with the Pies.