A shell-shocked Brad Scott has branded North Melbourne's lacklustre 39-point loss to Essendon the most disappointing defeat in his time at the club.
The Kangaroos were smashed in nearly every statistical category by the Bombers, but it was the lopsided contested possession count that they lost 156-109 that alarmed him the most.
"We talk about all the great things players can do, but the bottom line is if you can't get your hands on the ball then all the [rest] is irrelevant," Scott fumed.
"The extension of that is that if you can't defend well enough then you can't get the game on your terms. It was a miracle we got the game back on level pegging in the second quarter because we were just being outplayed. It was bitterly disappointing from that perspective.
"I can't think of a time ever in my time here that we've been beaten by almost 50 in contested possession – that's just so unlike the group that we've got.
"It came as a complete shock to me – I never would have predicted that that would be our challenge.
"I genuinely thought we were up for the contest but we definitely weren't.
"Tonight's performance was as disappointing a performance as I can recall."
The Kangaroos are yet to win their season-opener in five years under Scott and he promised a searching week on the training track as he looks to inject some life into his side after the flat performance.
In a further blow to the Roos, ruckman Todd Goldstein played most of the game with an injured left shoulder and will undergo scans to determine the severity of the damage.
At the other end of the spectrum Essendon coach Mark Thompson was delighted with nearly every aspect of his side's first-up win.
"It was a good start and we couldn't be more pleased to be honest," Thompson said.
"We played a team that is vying for the same position in the eight … and we played a good strong first game of the year. We looked like we were doing the things that we have been practicing and they carried it out well."
The performance came amid a storm of controversy after Tania Hird's public comments fanned the flames of the supplements saga and renewed speculation over James Hird's future at the club.
But Thompson said he had made sure his players' focus remained solely on the Kangaroos.
"We told all our players not to even go there. It wasn't the right time," he said.
"We had a game on and I wanted all of my players, all of my staff, just to concentrate on the game.
"The game's only just wrapped up so we'll let the board deal with all that. I think Paul Little has said enough about what the next couple of days look like.
"I was busy enough without worrying about that stuff."
Paul Chapman starred in his first game for his new club, but went off late with what Thompson said was just a cramp.