Facing Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers this afternoon, the New York Jets were hoping to deliver their fans a victory in their final home game of the 2012 season.
While the 27-17 loss wasn't what they'd envisioned, rookie defensive end Quinton Coples put together one of his best outings as a pro, finishing the day with 1.5 tackles, three hits on Rivers and another tackle for loss.
"Coach gave me more opportunities to go out there," Coples said, "and I just wanted to make sure I continued to keep competing and keep grinding. Things fell in place."
Coples' first sack occurred on the Chargers' second series that started at their 7. Coples beat his man on second-and-9, taking Rivers down for a loss of 6 yards. The play may have felt extra special for the former North Carolina Tar Heel as Rivers, a nine-year veteran, attended one of UNC's biggest rivals, North Carolina State.
On the next play, facing third-and-15, Rivers couldn't complete a pass for WR Danario Alexander and the Chargers were forced to punt.
No. 98's other sack happened on San Diego's first series of the second half. This time his teammate, LB Garrett McIntyre, helped contribute as both players split the sack. The play, on third-and-7, resulted in a 9-yard loss and again the Chargers had to punt.
Coples said he was pleased with the way the Jets opened the game. Yet he was sad they couldn't sustain that high level of play the rest of the way. Leading for the first time at the half since last month in St. Louis, the Green & White were outscored, 17-3, after the intermission this afternoon.
"I just think we didn't finish on either side," Coples said. "I think we didn't finish and we didn't walk out of there with the pride that we started with."
Some other things that discouraged the 6"6', 290-pounder were several big plays the defense allowed in the second half. After the unit limited Rivers to 54 yards in the air in the first half, it wasn't as successful in the second as he finished with 165 yards passing. In the third quarter alone, Rivers completed five of nine for 108 yards, with all five completions going for 10-plus yards.
"It's always tough to see them score or get a big gain because we take pride in getting off the field," Coples said, "so at the end of the day we just have to compete better."
Despite the loss, the Kinston, N.C., native still leads the team in sacks on the season with 5.5. He has a chance to be the first rookie to lead the Green & White in the sack category alone since Hugh Douglas finished with 10 back in 1995. In 2007, LB David Harris tied for the team lead with five sacks. Sunday was Coples' second multiple-sack game of his young career as he had a career-high two vs. Indianapolis back in Week 6.
"All I can do is continue to keep grinding and keep playing hard," he said.
With one week of practice and one game left on the schedule, Coples knows his rookie season won't end the way he had hoped it would. Just like his Jets teammates, he, too, wanted to reach the playoffs. However, that goal was taken away six days ago in Nashville. Now, the focus has shifted toward playing for pride. "It's very disappointing," Coples said of the loss. "I know what this team is capable of. I know that we're better than what we showed, and at the end of the day, we just have to get better and make sure that we finish strong and beat Buffalo."