Jets beat Raiders to keep playoff hopes alive
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Rex Ryan stood before his players, ready and willing to give them the "Victory Monday'' they deserved. Instead, his players had a message for their coach.
One win -- even an impressive one -- isn't reason enough to take a day off, they said. Not now, not while the playoffs still are within their sight.
So instead of celebrating Sunday's 37-27 win over the Raiders with a day away from the practice facility, they asked for permission to keep grinding.
"He wanted to give us off,'' guard Willie Colon said. "Me and Brick [tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson] looked at each other and said, 'No time to relax.'
"We asked: 'Can we go back to work?' ''
At least for a few hours, the Jets (6-7) allowed themselves to revel in a total team effort against the Raiders (4-9). Geno Smith threw his first touchdown pass since Week 7, Ed Reed made his first interception as a Jet and Antonio Allen recorded his second blocked-punt touchdown to help snap a three-game losing streak. And more importantly, Rex & Co. remain alive in the playoff hunt.
The Jets still face an uphill climb for the AFC's second wild-card spot. They trail the Ravens (7-6) and Dolphins (7-6), both of whom won and own a tiebreaker edge against the Jets. The most important thing is that there still is time to make a run, the Jets said. And that's why they all plan to punch in at One Jets Drive bright and early Monday.
"The season ain't over,'' rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. "So we've got to work.''
Truth be told, Ryan couldn't have been happier. In the past few weeks, he's been spewing emotions behind the scenes -- crying, cursing, screaming and shouting in an attempt to get his guys to believe in themselves and one another. In the midst of their three-game skid, he was determined to keep his players together. And that unity was on display Sunday as the offense and special teams carried his defense for a change.
Smith (16-for-25, 219 yards, one touchdown) didn't have a breakout performance with his arm but provided a big boost with his feet. He gained 50 yards on five carries, including an 8-yard TD on a fake handoff to Bilal Powell that gave the Jets a 27-10 lead early in the third quarter.
Smith threw a first-quarter interception (and should have been picked off a few more times in the first half), but he responded by leading three second-half scoring drives to keep the Raiders at bay.
Smith also benefited from having tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (61 yards) and wide receivers Jeremy Kerley (41) and Santonio Holmes (55) together for the first time since Week 4.
Ryan gave a game ball to general manager John Idzik, whose father, John Joseph Idzik, the Jets' offensive coordinator from 1977-79, died Tuesday at 85.
The Jets' 37 points were a season high, but Marty Mornhinweg's offense received some much-needed support from the special teams. Allen's blocked punt, which he recovered in the end zone, put them up 20-3. Nick Folk nailed field-goal attempts of 41, 23 and 51 yards.
"Today, special teams was awesome,'' Ryan said in his postgame address in the locker room.
Said defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson: "That's what you call a team win. All three phases contributing.''
The defense did its part in the first half, limiting Oakland to three points. But it allowed its first 100-yard rusher (Marcel Reece, 123 yards) of the season and let Matt McGloin (18-for-31, 245 yards, two TDs) hit Mychal Rivera on a 1-yard pass to make it 37-27 with 2:24 left.
The win buoyed the Jets' spirits as they look to turn the page toward Carolina.
"It's a sense of urgency for this team to continue to have success,'' said Ferguson, a Freeport product who made his 125th consecutive NFL start. "Today was a great example of the things that we're capable of. We recognize now's the time to get excited. This is what it's all about: the fight for December.''
Notes & quotes: Cornerback Antonio Cromartie returned to the game after colliding with Reed on Rod Streater's 48-yard touchdown reception midway through the third quarter. Cromartie returned on the next defensive series but was not made available to reporters because of a head injury.