Should the Crows be worried?
IT TURNS out Adelaide is vulnerable. Not as much as some thought when they opened the season undermanned and under pressure to redeem last year's grand final disaster.
But for all their grit to get 20 points up in the final quarter against Essendon on Friday night, they lacked the finish to put it away and their costly fadeout will not only sting but compound the situation going into next week's grand final re-match with Richmond.
When Cameron Ellis-Yolmen put the Crows 20 points up 10 minutes into the final quarter they should have won but lost by 12 points.
No one was there to take the intercept mark in defence as the Bombers repeatedly attacked, Josh Green got under their guard with two goals and when Adelaide did get it forward they simply made the wrong decisions.
Kyle Hartigan and Daniel Talia battled admirably in defence but Essendon's third tall - whether it was James Stewart, Cale Hooker or Joe Daniher - was too much to contain.
For three quarters however there was so much to like about them.
With four first-choice players out the general feeling was this was a good time to get the Crows and Essendon at Etihad Stadium would deliver a quick kill.
After a slow start they arrived in a rush in the third quarter thanks to huge performances from Rory Sloane, Mitch McGovern and Bryce Gibbs while the three debutants shone in a glowing endorsement of their depth.
Darcy Fogarty, Lachlan Murphy and Tom Doedee were playing their first game and Ellis-Yolmen was playing his first in 574 days after a knee reconstruction but there were no big-game nerves.
Missing seven players from last year's grand final, including captain Taylor Walker and star midfielder Brad Crouch, what was perhaps missed in the selection discussion is there were two pretty handy ins as well with Mitch McGovern and Gibbs.
Twelve years after Adelaide failed in its bid to draft Gibbs as a father/son selection, the dream of him wearing a Crows guernsey in an AFL game finally materialised and his impact was telling. He had 35 disposals and his two goals to open the third quarter oozed class.
Josh Jenkins rode Adelaide's tumultuous off-season as much as anyone and his goal on the quarter-time siren kept the Crows in touch. His second goal was the result of running at the ball and taking a strong mark and he finished with 2.2 in a solid outing.
Fogarty's first act was a crunching tackle on Zaharakis, his first mark was on the lead across half-forward, and his first kick was a goal from outside 50m after Gibbs told him to go back and put it through.
His hands were terrific with one-grab marks including a contested one in the third quarter set up his second goal which showed why the Crows were thrilled to get him in the draft.
After a nervous start another debutant in Doedee grew in confidence. He was out-pointed twice by Essendon's tall forwards in the first quarter but settled, started reading the play and won an important one-on-one against Stewart which stopped a certain goal.
Rory Laird constantly got the Crows going with 40 disposals with ruthless efficiency and Matt Crouch amassed 41, but Adelaide will face a nervous week with Richard Douglas reported for rough conduct for his bump on Zach Merrett which ended the Bomber's night in the first quarter.
Curtly Hampton also finished the night on the bench with ice on his leg which adds to the Crows' injury woes.
As the final 15 minutes became a dog-fight, Green got his second goal for the quarter and it was just four points with five minutes to go.
But the Crows couldn't get it forward and when they did they couldn't deliver the knockout blow.
Dyson Heppell did the damage in the midfield for Essendon along with David Zaharakis, and Stewart was able to find more space and kick this third goal which proved the sealer.
Another major difference was Brendon Goddard who sliced open Adelaide's midfield with his kick on his way to 29 disposals and a goal in a sign there is plenty of good footy left in the veteran.
ESSENDON 4.2 5.8 8.10 14.15 (99)
ADELAIDE 3.5 4.9 11.12 12.15 (87)
BEST - Essendon: Heppell, Goddard, Stewart, Zaharakis, McGrath, Parish. Adelaide: Laird, Crouch, Gibbs, Sloane, Douglas, Talia.
GOALS - Essendon: Stewart, Hooker 3, Daniher, Green 2, McGrath, Bellchambers, Goddard, Begley. Adelaide: Fogarty, Jenkins, Gibbs 2, Hampton, McGovern, Murphy, Douglas, Greenwood, Ellis-Yolmen,
INJURIES - Essendon: Merrett (concussion). Adelaide: Hampton (leg).
UMPIRES - R. O'Gorman, R. Chamberlain, T. Pannell.