JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Cardinals and Jaguars technically are members in good standing of the NFL, so Rex Ryan would request that you give his defense a nod for what it has done the past two Sundays, no matter the competition.

The short version: only one touchdown and 16 overall points allowed in consecutive victories, with opponents going 2-for-31 on third-down conversions.

The Jets' coach noted after Sunday's 17-10 victory over the Jaguars how little attention was given to the 0-for-15 third-down shutout against the Cardinals the previous week.

"Nobody gave any credit to the defense, or at least I wasn't aware of that,'' he said.

That could have something to do with the fact that most of the focus after that 7-6 victory was on Ryan's decision to yank Mark Sanchez and on the incompetence of the Cardinals and rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley.

Jacksonville offered a more credible passer in Chad Henne, but he, too, withered in the face of the rejuvenated Jets, finishing with two interceptions and a passer rating of 41.3.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples were in Henne's face all afternoon, recording two of the Jets' three sacks and finishing with five quarterback hits between them.

"Muhammad is playing out of his mind,'' linebacker Calvin Pace said.

Said Wilkerson: "We just watched film of those guys and felt we could beat them certain times when we got them one-on-one.''

Bart Scott even got into the act, intercepting a pass for the first time since 2006. Garrett McIntyre hammered Henne in the first quarter and the ball popped into the air and into Scott's arms.

"Great play by him, average play by me,'' Scott said. "But you take them whenever they come.''

The Jaguars went three-and-out on all four third-quarter possessions, but they put a late scare into the Jets. On second-and-17, Montell Owens ran 32 yards for a touchdown with 7:06 remaining to make it a one-touchdown game.

"I was like, 'Good, they're going to run it,' '' Ryan said, but as the play unfolded, he said he thought: "Is somebody going to tackle him? Nope.''

In the final minute, the Jaguars converted on fourth-and-15 (28-yard pass) and fourth-and-2 (7-yard pass) and got to the Jets' 28-yard line. Ryan said he regretted the defensive play call on the former conversion.

Finally, though, Henne threw under pressure and was intercepted by Ellis Lankster at the Jets' 4 with 15 seconds left.

"Obviously, I would have liked to finish the game better defensively,'' Ryan said. But it was good enough.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Someone asked Pace if this defense is starting to remind him of the elite units from the 2009 and 2010 AFC Championship Game teams. Whoa, calm down there!

"I don't know about 'elite,' but we're playing a lot better," he said. "Hopefully, we ride this wave and carry it on in.''