Give Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck a couple of more years of experience and a decent running game, and it's obvious the No. 1 draft pick is going to be a star. But Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Rex Ryan's defense took away the run, cornerback Antonio Cromartie blanketed veteran receiver Reggie Wayne and Luck looked like a rookie in a 35-9 loss to the Jets.
It was an overwhelming performance by the Jets' defense, which allowed no rushing first downs and held the Colts to 41 yards on the ground. Luck completed 22 of 44 passes for 280 yards but was sacked four times, threw two interceptions and had a rating of 51.3.
Cromartie had two interception returns for touchdowns, but he lost the second one entirely when he was called for pass interference against Wayne and his first TD was wiped out by a penalty that left the Jets at the Colts' 35-yard line. Ellis Lankster made an end-zone interception against Luck in the fourth quarter.
"I'm exhausted right now," said Cromartie, who quibbled with a couple of calls that went against him but admitted he got tangled with Wayne on what would have been his second pick. Wayne caught five passes for 87 yards, but three came in the final 7:38, when the game was out of reach.
"People were questioning when [Darrelle] Revis went down, but we really have faith that we have the best secondary in football, even minus Revis," linebacker Aaron Maybin said. "Cro played an outstanding game. He gave us the freedom pass rush-wise to be able to do a lot. You couldn't even look in the direction of the man he was covering because he was handling his business."
Cromartie credited an excellent game plan by defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Ryan that put him in man coverage and allowed him to anticipate Wayne's every move.
"Some of the stuff we expected whenever [Wayne] was in certain positions," Cromartie said. "We got kind of a key on it.
"We got a chance to get our hands on Reggie and tried to confuse Luck at the same time. We tried to take his No. 1 read away and make him make throws to the other side."
The coverage on the back end gave the pass rush time to pressure Luck repeatedly. With defensive linemen Sione Po'uha and Kenrick Ellis out with injuries, rookie defensive end Quinton Coples saw his first extensive action and got 11/2 sacks.
"It gave me a chance to establish my role on the defense," Coples said. Describing Luck's reaction to the pressure, Coples added: "I don't think he was used to it. We made him uneasy back there in the pocket and we forced him into bad situations."
Such a complete performance was the confidence-booster the Jets (3-3) needed heading to New England next week. "It's going to be a hard-fought game between two teams that dislike each other," Cromartie said. "It was important for us to get back to .500, especially going to New England."