Wayne Bennett is at a loss to explain the gulf between Brisbane's best and worst performances as a shock 36-22 loss to the Bulldogs will likely leave them needing to defy NRL history to secure a drought-breaking premiership.
No team has claimed the title from outset the top four since the NRL's formation in 1998. The Broncos will be hard pressed earning themselves a second chance in the finals after this latest effort leaves them in seventh place on 26 points.
Finishing outside the top-four would mean Brisbane must win at least four straight finals games to secure their first premiership since 2006, a feat seemingly beyond them given their wildly inconsistent showings in recent weeks.
Impressive wins over contenders Penrith and Cronulla have been book-ended by equally disenchanting losses to the Warriors and now the struggling Bulldogs.
"I don’t really have any idea," Bennett said when asked to explain Brisbane's jittery run of form.
"I'm extremely disappointed. They had all the enthusiasm and energy and we were lacking in those areas.
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Broncos - Round 21, 2018
"Our problem is we get two or three good weeks of football then throw one of these games in. And it's against the bottom eight teams on all the occasions."
Bennett denied that there had been any indication during the week that such a flat performance was in the offing, or that his players had figured simply turning up was enough to get past one of the 2018 season's cellar dwellers.
"I can't tell you why it happens." he said.
"I don't think we're that confident [that we thought we could turn up and win]. We turned up hoping the other guys would do the job. They're all hoping someone else will do the job.
"It's not that we can't play or match it with the best teams. Our best results have been against the top eight teams."
Adding to Brisbane's woes are the week-to-week hamstring issues for Tevita Pangai jnr, who came from the field at the 48th minute and did not return.
With the game slipping away Bennett switched captain Darius Boyd to his regular fullback position, hooking winger Jordan Kahu and shuffling Jamayne Isaako and substitute Kotoni Staggs in his back line.
Bennett would not be drawn on whether the move may become more permanent in next week's Queensland derby against the Cowboys, explaining the shake-up as a desperate bid to spark his side.
"I was just trying to make something happen as it wasn't happening for us," Bennett said.
"I could sit there and watch the scoreboard keep ticking away from you. There's not a lot you can do on match day as a coach, but you do have a bit of control over interchange and I was just trying to make something happen."