EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rex Ryan's defense can be tough on rookie quarterbacks -- even if the rookie is a No. 1 overall pick/franchise savior.
The Colts' Andrew Luck, coming off a breakthrough performance last week, fell back to earth in Sunday's 35-9 loss to the Jets. He completed only 22 of 44 passes for 280 yards, including two interceptions and an overthrow in the end zone that could've changed the complexion of the game.
"I know I played very poorly on my end," Luck said. "I think on the second drive of the game, I had a wide-open (Coby) Fleener in the end zone. Maybe if I had hit that, it would be somewhat of a different game."
The Jets rattled Luck with good pressure from the defensive line, particularly rookie Quinton Coples (1.5 sacks) and Muhammad Wilkerson (1.0), who recorded their first sacks of the season. The Jets finished with four, one shy of their total from the first five games.
"When you get hits on a quarterback, especially a young guy, it speeds things up for him and he has to get the ball out quicker," said OLB Aaron Maybin (0.5 sack), who finally emerged after five quiet games. "He doesn't feel as comfortable in the pocket. Stuff like that affects a quarterback."
This was a confidence-boosting game for the entire defensive line, which played without NT Sione Po'uha (back) and his backup, Kenrick Ellis (knee). The Jets started Mike DeVito at nose tackle, with Wilkerson at tackle and Coples at end. It was Coples' first start. They moved people around, with Wilkerson seeing time at the nose. They also used former Colts DT Daniel Muir, who was signed last week.
Coples and Wilkerson, first-round picks from 2012 and 2011, respectively, needed big games because they were starting to catch some heat from fans and media.
"We gave him a shot," Ryan said of Coples. "We gave him some opportunities to rush the passer and the guy stepped up and responded."
Ryan's defense is complex for young QBs, even for those with Luck's pedigree. Under Ryan, the Jets are 4-0 against rookie starting QBs, holding them to one TD pass with six interceptions and a 49.9 passer rating. It was a tough lesson for Luck.
"That young kid at quarterback is going to be a stud," Ryan said, adding, "I'm glad we play him this year and not two years from now."
This was, by far, the Jets' best defensive game of the season. They held the Colts to three field goals and forced four turnovers. Maybin said it was "the most complete, the most New York Jet brand of football all year."
For an encore, they get to play Tom Brady.