JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 27-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1.The losing streak is long. We didn't just learn this because it has been going on a long time – too long, actually. But Sunday marked the Jaguars ninth consecutive loss after a Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. That ties the franchise record for longest single-season losing streak, which was set in 2016. The Jaguars lost 13 consecutive games over the 2012-2013 seasons.
2.The gap between the Steelers and Jaguars is wide. Make no mistake: The Jaguars fought Sunday and the defense played better than the score indicated. But the Steelers controlled the game's momentum through the entire second half and felt in control after taking a double-digit halftime lead. The Steelers extended a 17-3 halftime lead to the final margin with a methodical fourth quarter as the Jaguars' injuries mounted. The 24-point final margin was the Jaguars' largest loss of the season.
3.Josh Luton is a rookie … One of the Jaguars' rookie quarterback's strength in his first two starts was that he didn't look overwhelmed. That changed Sunday, when Luton looked overwhelmed as often as not with four interceptions – including two in the second quarter as the Steelers took over momentum. "I thought it was a tough day for him," Marrone said of Luton.
4. … and Head Coach Doug Marrone considered a quarterback change … Marrone confirmed this after the game. He opted to let the sixth-round selection finish rather than inserting veteran backup Mike Glennon into the lineup.
5. … and Luton may not start moving forward. Marrone following the game: "I think during the week we'll evaluate it. But I think as the week goes, we'll take a look and see what we can do, what's the best thing for our team." Don't look for immediate news regarding this. Marrone said he doubted he will know Sunday's starter on Monday. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who started the first seven games of the season before missing the last three with a thumb injury, threw in practice last week.
6.Injuries have become a factor … The Jaguars entered Sunday with both starting corners out – rookie CJ Henderson (groin) on injured reserve and Sidney Jones IV (Achilles) inactive. They then lost three more secondary players Sunday: cornerback DJ Hayden (knee), cornerback Chris Claybrooks (groin) and safety Daniel Thomas (arm).
7.Thomas is going on IR. Marrone confirmed this following the game – and that's too bad for the defense. The fifth-round rookie had his first career interception Sunday and had been improving in recent weeks. He's a player to watch for the future.
8. …and eventually injuries do matter. Injuries didn't cause this losing streak; the losing started when the team was comparably healthy. But the Jaguars on Sunday also lost defensive end Josh Allen (knee) and guard Andrew Norwell (arm), perhaps the team's two top linemen this season. "If everybody was healthy, that would help," middle linebacker Joe Schobert said. "There's a lot of guys playing injured, a lot of guys coming back from injuries, getting reinjured. It's the NFL, that stuff happens. You've got to have the next-man up mentality to be able to plug in and step up and play as if you're the starter, no matter who's out there on offense, defense and special teams."
9.Good coverage isn't always enough. What's maddening about playing the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is even when you cover the receivers, they make plays. The Jaguars had decent coverage on Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool on a 31-yard second-quarter touchdown. The same was true on a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Diontae Johnson on the next series. The Steelers still made the plays, which is what they do. And the plays changed the momentum of the game permanently.
10.James Robinson is still good. The large second-half deficit limited the undrafted rookie free agent to 17 total carries Sunday, but he parlayed those carries into yet another solid performance: 73 yards and a 4.3-yard per carry average. Marrone: "I just feel bad that we can't get a lead and get him more carries. I think his production would be even higher." Marrone's right.
11.Logan Cooke is good. The punter's line Sunday was solid again: a 54.0-yard average with a 47.5-yard net.
12.The Jaguars' defense has improved. The Jaguars have allowed 27, 25 and 27 points the last three games after allowing 30 or more in all six before that. The defense allowed 17 through three quarters Sunday before injuries decimated the secondary. It's marginal improvement, perhaps, but it's improvement nonetheless.
13.Turnovers continue to be a killer. The Jaguars nearly pulled a major upset a week ago by winning the turnover battle against Green Bay. They beat the Indianapolis Colts for their only victory of the season largely by winning the turnover battle in Week 1. Little surprise they sustained their widest loss of the season when they lost the turnover statistic 4-1.
14.The red zone is key. The Jaguars were there just once Sunday – and Luton threw the first of his four interceptions. A one-victory team can't beat an unbeaten team only getting to the red zone once. It sure can't do it not getting points when it gets there.