Despite the talks of Week 11 being a potential trap game as the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to play the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday was anything but.
The Steelers walked into the game as the better team, with more talent and playmakers on each side of the ball, ad they dominated like they were supposed to. As a result of the 27-3 blowout, the Jaguars (1-10) tied a franchise single-season record for consecutive losses with nine, demonstrating just how much the Jaguars are struggling in 2020.
With the game now in the past, we take a second look at the game to give you our five biggest takeaways from the bout and what it means moving forward.
This felt like the beginning of the end for the Doug Marrone era
From the surprise onside kick via starting slot receiver Keelan Cole following the first possession of the game to Doug Marrone attempting to ice a kicker (and succeeding) in the first quarter, it felt like the Jaguars were beyond desperate for a win. This is stating the obvious, of course, but the Jaguars hadn't pulled out any of these types of stops in any of their other 10 losses. Instead, their strategy this week felt like beyond a desperate attempt to pull out a win. It felt like a regime that knew the door was starting to slam shut, resulting in them pulling out every trick possible to salvage a win before that happens. In short, it felt like the beginning of the end.
Doug Marrone was able to keep his job last season after going 6-6 with a rookie sixth-round quarterback. He kept the locker room in order despite the everyday drama of Jalen Ramsey, Tom Coughlin, and so forth. And while he has once again led a locker room that gives complete effort each week and puts the team above individuals, it hasn't resulted in wins. Marrone coached Sunday like someone who knows he won't be in this position much longer, a stark reality that will likely formulate within the next month.
James Robinson continues to be the team's lone highlight
After accounting for over 45% of Jacksonville's offensive yardage on Sunday, is there any doubt about James Robinson? This was, in our eyes, his toughest matchup of the year in terms of potential production. The Steelers don't have a good run defense, but they did have a matchup that was set to make life tough for Robinson. The Jaguars had zero threat of a passing game due to the struggles of their rookie quarterback, meaning the Steelers could hone in on Robinson during the early potions of the game. And eventually, the game was too far out of reach for the Jaguars to really give Robinson a chance to impact the game.
Despite this, Robinson nearly cracked 100 scrimmage yards on fewer than 20 touches. If the Jaguars had a more balanced offense, Robinson likely would have put up even better numbers. This is a statement that would have held true the previous week, and the one before that, and on and on. Robinson has been the team's best player this year and even with their non-stop losing he is leaving an impressive mark.
Daniel Thomas continues to impress
Daniel Thomas had a somewhat quiet training camp while veteran safety Josh Jones was one of the defensive standouts in August. Despite this, Thomas has turned out to be the more impactful player over the course of the 2020 season, somewhat of a surprise considering the fifth-round strong safety out of Auburn was mostly expected to be a special teams ace in his first year. Thomas has continually seen more defensive snaps over the last month, a result of Josh Jones' struggles and then his eventual placement on the injured reserve. On Sunday, he once again showed the Jaguars why he is deserving of those snaps.
Thomas was unfortunately injured during the game and will head to injured reserve with an arm injury, but his performance on Sunday was another example of his strong play. He had a terrific pass deflection on third down on Diontae Johnson, showing great awareness and instincts in man coverage. He then recorded his first NFL interception at the end of the first half, solidifying himself as a playmaker in the secondary.
Jake Luton may have played himself out of the 2021 backup role
Jake Luton wasn't just a struggling rookie against an elite defense on Sunday. He looked like he didn't belong, something the Jaguars can't tolerate at the position moving forward regardless of their experience. For the second week in a row, Luton had a completion percentage over expectation that was last among all passers. So far, he has the worst figure in the league and the worst NextGenStats has recorded for a single player's season since 2016. This is a stat that separates quarterback performance from his supporting cast, so essentially it is showing that Luton has been the least accurate passer in the league over the last two weeks.
Luton was never going to be Jacksonville's default starting quarterback next season, at least not in the same manner Gardner Minshew was the starting quarterback to start the season. But on Sunday, Luton played poorly enough to question whether he is worth having on the roster as a No. 2 quarterback next season. If the Jaguars play their cards right, they will be drafting a top quarterback and Minshew and Luton will compete for the top backup role. After Sunday, it is hard to imagine that is a battle Luton would win.
When is enough, enough for Shad Khan?
The only person that knows when Shad Khan will make a move to change his team's leadership and on-field performance is, well, Shad Khan. But no matter when Khan does make that change, it won't erase the past decade of failure. Khan has now lost 100 games (counting playoffs) as Jacksonville's owner, the second-fastest owner to ever reach 100 losses. Meanwhile, his hand-picked general manager is 39-86.
If the Jaguars lose against the Cleveland Browns next week, the team will set a record for most consecutive losses in a single season. When the Jaguars lose another game, Khan will have eight seasons of at least 10 losses in his nine seasons of ownership. The Jaguars have fielded only one respectable team under Khan in large part because he has been overly patient with Dave Caldwell, Gus Bradley, Tom Coughlin, and even Doug Marrone to an extent. He isn't the one failing the team on Sundays and in the offseason, but he is the one hiring those who are failing. Eventually, enough has to be enough. Sunday likely wasn't the tipping point, but what will be?