For safeties Ed Reed and Antonio Allen, the Jets' 37-27 victory over the Raiders on Sunday at MetLife Stadium was more like the "Vindication Bowl." Not that either of them ever would put it that way.
Reed, in particular, was emphatic in saying he has nothing to prove to anyone "holding a microphone or a camera." That was aimed at the critics who suggested the future Hall of Famer, at 35, might consider stepping gracefully into retirement. Reed's arrival as a free agent coincided with the three-game losing streak preceding the win over Oakland and robbed younger safety Antonio Allen of playing time.
Fate has a funny way of working things out. Reed and Allen made big plays that helped provide the winning margin.
Reed intercepted rookie quarterback Matt McGloin's pass at the Raiders' 11-yard line and returned it to the 4 to set up a field goal. Then Allen blocked Marquette King's punt and recovered it in the end zone for a 20-3 halftime lead.
Reed's pick was the quintessential example of a veteran understanding where to be before a young quarterback realized his mistake. "The D-line got great pressure, made him scramble," Reed said of McGloin. "I believe he was in the end zone. He had to throw it or take the safety. I just stayed with the [receiver] dragging across. I believe he had a guy on him already. [McGloin] tried to force it. I made the play."
Reed now has recorded at least one interception in each of his 12 NFL seasons, and don't think he didn't know it. "I thought about that," he said. "I wasn't worried about it. I'm happy to have it, happy to have 62 [career interceptions], but more important, just to get a win."
The Jets settled for a field goal and a 13-3 lead after that prime scoring opportunity, but the defense forced Oakland to punt from its 18 on the next possession. Allen said special-teams coordinator Ben Kotwica had talked all week about Raiders long snapper Jon Condo not dropping back after the snap.
"So we swung a dude across his face -- Ellis Lankster -- and I just hit the 'A' gap and made a big play," Allen said.
Allen came roaring up the middle untouched to smother the ball on King's foot. "It felt weird," Allen said. "Man, they just let me loose. I thought the tackle was going to give me some kind of push, but he didn't even touch me. He just let me go right through.
"It was a momentum-shifter. I mean, we were ahead, but it put us up by two touchdowns."
The defense had one shaky moment when Reed collided with cornerback Antonio Cromartie as both tried to intercept what they thought was an overthrow to the tight end. The ball went past them to wide receiver Rod Streater for a 48-yard TD that cut the Jets' lead to 27-17.
"It was crazy," Reed said. "I'm glad we came out with the win and Cro is all right."