That's more like it.
We had stumbled for three weeks of losses out of our bye week to turn any playoff hopes we had into pipe dreams. But this afternoon in the cold, with snow and ice heading up the Turnpike, things turned out more like we had in mind all along in our 37-27 triumph over the Raiders at MetLife Stadium.
First, the Green & White had a strong week of practice and classroom work. Then Geno Smith and the offense, with Chris Ivory running with angry abandon and Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley back near full strength, shook off their offensive dryspell. Ed Reed came up with his first interception of the season to set up a field goal. Antonio Allen recovered his own punt block for a TD. Oakland was playing minus its first three running backs, its top wideout and a starting guard.
The result was a Jets victory for the first time in a month over the game Raiders. And it puts us in the best possible frame of mind heading into the week ahead before Game No. 14 at Carolina against the hot Panthers.
"That wasn't me — it was our team," head coach Rex Ryan said when asked about keeping his team together through the three-game spin. "That's this group of guys. It's a special group. We want to go out and compete and finish this season out. It's about the men in the locker room."
Smith stood really tall for the first time since leading the remarkable home win over the Saints in Week 9. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown pass to Kerley and one interception, and he also rushed for 50 yards and a TD on five carries.
"I'm not the type of guy that's going to take it easy on myself or feel sorry for myself when things aren't going well because I know there's a light at the end of the tunnel," Smith said. "I just keep plugging at it, I just keep working. I just stay confident in myself and exhibit that throughout the week in practice."
His confidence showed throughout the game. He led us to a field goal on the game-opening drive, then threw his only interception on the day, then came right back with a three-play drive to his first TD pass in six games, a 25-yard strike to a leaping Kerley winning his 1-on-1 battle in the end zone.
"I felt good about the game plan, I felt good about the weather, I felt good about my arm," said Kerley, who had four catches for 41 yards in his first action in four games. "Everything just felt right, so catching that was icing on the cake."
Following Janikowski's first field goal, the offense added another Nick Folk field goal set up by Reed's pick. Then Allen broke through cleanly for the block of Marquette King's punt that he rolled over on for a 20-3 lead that we took into the second half.
The O Picks Up the D
As good as things went generally, the defense seemed a beat away on the day as we were outgained by the visitors, 383 yards to 352. We didn't get much pressure on McGloin, gave up a big rushing play to fourth RB Marcel Reece and a big TD completion after our DBs collided in coverage.
"It's great to be able to do that, to pick up our team," Smith said. "It's a total team game and at times in the game when we weren't doing so well, the defense picked us up. We had that interception and they came out and they made a stop. So it's a total team victory."
The run defense, so stout all year, laid a big egg on the second play of the second half when Reece burst up the gut for a 63-yard touchdown run to cut our lead to 20-10. It was the longest opponent run in a Jets home game since Lamar Smith went 68 yards for the score for Miami in the 2000 Monday Night Miracle game. That game worked out OK for the Green & White, but would this one?
Smith and the O responded with a 72-yard march to Smith's read-option dash for his fourth rushing TD of the year — all of them coming at home — to make it 27-10.
The visitors from the West refused to die. McGloin rifled a pass in between the fingertips of Reed and Antonio Cromartie to WR Rod Streater, who nearly jogged the rest of the 48 yards to a TD to cut the lead back to 27-17. Cromartie came up with a head injury from the misplay.
Back came the Jets and Folk, who dropped a 51-yarder over the bar late in the third quarter for a 30-20 lead. Oakland returned for Sebastian Janikowski's second field goal with 13:21 to play.
Ivory Spins to Win
But then came our longest drive of the game, a 73-yarder on seven plays that included Smith's 32-yard run and Ivory's whirling-dervish 15-yard score to make it 37-20 — the Jets' most points in the last 28 games, or since the 48-point opening-day splurge against Buffalo last year.
"I saw they were overpursuing, so I cut it back and broke that tackle, then broke another one," said Ivory, who battered for 76 yards on 18 carries. "Then I saw the safety overpursuing and cut back underneath him. It put six on the board, so it felt good."
"Chris gives 110 percent in everything he does," said G Willie Colon. "We believe in him. When he gets going, he gives us momentum. He's huge for us. His confidence, his swagger, we feed off of it. He did a great job of bringing it home for us."
The Silver & Black responded with one more TD, a McGloin 1-yard threading to TE Mychal Rivera with 2:24 to go as flurries finally started to fall.
But Janikowski's onside kick, as promising as it looked, went the Jets' way when Nick Bellore came out of the pile with the ball. After Ryan Quigley's punt, the Raiders had the ball at their 20 with 25 seconds left needing 10 points. Not gonna happen — and it didn't as a Quinton Coples sack and an incompletion finished it.
The win wasn't as beneficial as it could've been because both Baltimore and Miami, teams we must pass to get back into the sixth-seed conversation, both posted comeback wins. But as Colon said, first things first.
"Rex was encouraged because we as players said, 'Enough is enough,' " the veteran guard said. "We're out of lifelines. We have to execute and we have to get it done. Today was the first step."