Essendon's AFL season of great expectations is spiralling out of control fast.
The Bombers remain the only team not to win a third quarter this year after Hawthorn easily beat them 13.12 (90) to 10.7 (67) in Saturday's scrappy match at the MCG.
The margin flattered Essendon, who managed a three-goal run in the last quarter to prevent a blowout.
More telling was Hawthorn's 6.3 to a solitary rushed behind in the third term.
The third quarter is known as the premiership quarter and Essendon have lost that period by a combined 136 points, emphasising how far they are off the premiership pace.
Coach John Worsfold was deadpan when asked if it could mess with their minds.
"Some players will have nightmares, I reckon - they'll hear sirens, wake up in sweats, thinking, 'I think that's the third I've heard'," he said.
"That's our challenge. Players should not be worrying about something like 'this is the third quarter'."
Worsfold added Essendon were beaten by a better team and there are a lot of reasons they are struggling.
Glaringly, they had more handballs than kicks - and too many of those handballs were terrible.
"We certainly don't ever train that - we don't train to handball backwards and put teammates under pressure,' Worsfold said.
"The turnovers we had under minimal pressure are probably what are hurting us most."
Ruckman Tom Bellchambers, clearly Essendon's best, said the over-handballing was often a function of their misfiring attack.
"I can understand why our fans get frustrated, but we've actually got nothing to kick to at times," he said.
"So it's on our forwards a little bit to make sure we have something there."
Essendon are on a three-game losing streak, sit in the bottom four with a 2-5 record and now have a danger game against old rivals Carlton.
They are a shell of the side that made the finals last season.
The Bombers recruited boldly but have too many good players out of form - noticeably forwards Joe Daniher and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.
By contrast, Hawthorn recovered on Saturday from a slow first quarter to dominate and are in the top four with a 5-2 record.
They now have a Friday night blockbuster against Sydney at the MCG.
Returning from suspension, fiery Hawks defender James Sicily was best afield with 14 marks.
Captain Jarryd Roughead also broke his two-game scoring drought with three goals.
They lost Ricky Henderson and Will Langford as late withdrawals - Langford in the warm-up - with James Cousins and Brendan Whitecross taking their places.
"It was a tough grind - it was really good ... to be challenged and try to find a way to win," coach Alastair Clarkson said.