Essendon senior coach Ben Rutten wants to 'buck the trend' of his side falling narrowly short against the competition's best teams, after it challenged ladder leader Melbourne for long periods on Saturday night only to again succumb to a brave defeat.
The Bombers, who have defied expectations recently to win four of their past six matches, have still only beaten one top-eight side for the season and hoped to set a marker for their rapid improvement against the Demons at the MCG.
However, despite a gallant performance and a late fightback to close the deficit to within two kicks in the dying stages, Essendon couldn't reel in Melbourne's lead and missed the opportunity to draw level with the eighth-placed Richmond at 7-7.
Speaking afterwards, Rutten said his young team lacked composure in a final quarter where it kicked just two goals from 17 inside-50s and said the Bombers were disappointed at missing a fantastic chance to claim their most significant scalp yet.
"We're trying to buck that trend a little bit," Rutten said.
"We know that playing with a little bit more experience and playing more games and having more time together will increase that level of composure and predictability in our game. But we want to fast-track that as much as we can.
"It's a great opportunity for us to be able to go to work and learn. We played the best team in the competition so far this year, they're the best defensive team in the competition. It's a good team to be having problems going inside 50 against, because that's as hard as it gets.
"If we can take some learnings out of tonight … we're not going to get instant results, but if we can continue to look to grow and train and educate our guys and expose them to those scenarios more, that's where improvement will come from.
"The guys are really disappointed. They felt like they tried their hearts out and fought for each other right from the first bounce until the end, which we're really proud of. But they identified that there were some opportunities where execution let us down."
A pivotal turning point in the game came early in the third quarter, when Archie Perkins gave away a 50m penalty for encroaching on the mark that was extended to a 100m penalty against Devon Smith.
It put James Jordon from the wing to the top of the goalsquare and came amid a period where Melbourne kicked three consecutive goals to open a crucial 21-point lead that couldn't be reduced.
Rutten said he spoke to Smith about his actions after the match and made the former Bombers best and fairest winner aware of his mistake, saying the 28-year-old was still improving on that area of his game.
"It was a double 50m penalty, but the secondary one was a discipline one," Rutten said.
"I've already spoken to Dev about it and he's aware of that. He got distracted a little bit by the umpire and that cost us. He's aware of that.
"It's an area of his game that he's improving, he's getting better and better at that discipline to stick to his best footy for longer. But it just got him tonight."
Essendon's performance was inspired by the prolific work of Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish in midfield, with Merrett winning an equal career-high 41 disposals and Parish claiming another 37 to continue his strong run of form.