FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- If the New York Jets beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and go on to make something special out of their season, we'll probably look back and try to identify a turning point. Because that's what we do in sports; we like to highlight Moments.
Or maybe, just maybe, it will be the night of Nov. 7, when Brandon Moore walked into the Jersey Lanes bowling alley in Linden. He attended a charity event hosted by Santonio Holmes. Other teammates showed up, too, but Moore's presence was significant because, only three weeks earlier, he and Holmes were engaged in a very public -- and ugly -- war of words that threatened to rip apart the locker room.
This past Monday, Holmes returned the favor, visiting Moore's annual Christmas party at a Boys and Girls Club in Newark. Holmes was a hit, mingling with the kids and playing games with them.
"It was good to see him," Moore said. "The kids really enjoyed it, getting to see Santonio Holmes. They got to play video games with him. That's not an everyday occurrence."
These may seem like small, routine gestures -- bowling and video games -- but they symbolize the harmony in the Jets' locker room. Let's not be naive here -- obviously, winning cures a lot -- but there's no doubt that the Moore-Holmes truce helped the team navigate difficult stretches.
The season survived two near-death experiences -- a three-game losing streak and the Tim Tebow debacle in Denver -- and here the Jets are, controlling their own playoff destiny with three games to play.
It was dramatically different in mid-October, when Moore, tired of Holmes publicly criticizing the offensive line, stepped out of character and fired back. It was stunning because of Moore's understated demeanor. He questioned Holmes' leadership as a captain, the kind of harsh rebuke rarely seen in professional locker rooms.
But it's just what they needed, just what the team needed before things spiraled out of control. At the time, they had lost three straight and there was internal tension. You got the feeling things were about to blow sky-high.
Moore and Holmes were summoned to Rex Ryan's office for a lecture, and Ryan trotted them out as game captains a couple of days later before they faced the Dolphins on Monday night. It was the beginning of the healing process.
"One of Rex's big things when all that went down was, in order for us to move together as an offense and as a team, you can't have two guys -- two leaders, two guys in front -- who aren't seeing eye to eye, holding grudges," said Moore, discussing that chapter at length for the first time since it occurred.
"It could be a distraction. Of course, in a locker room, you've got 60 guys in there, so everybody isn't going to get along. But we go into battle every week and I root for him just as much as he probably roots for me."
In retrospect, Ryan said he isn't surprised that Holmes and Moore -- two of his six captains -- buried the hatchet.
"I had all the confidence in the world we were going to move past it, and we did," he said. "It's never personal. We respect everybody in the locker room."
On Thursday, Holmes clammed up when asked about the matter, specifically his attendance at Moore's charity event. Holmes sometimes treats the media like Grinches that want to steal his Christmas, snapping, "We're not talking about that, man. Next question."
He evidently didn't want to re-visit the controversy, failing to realize that the story isn't the controversy; it's how he and Moore got past it.
In the end, it doesn't matter if Holmes refuses to share his feelings. From all indications, he and Moore are OK. If you noticed, Holmes hasn't said anything remotely inflammatory since that episode.
"Even with what we said publicly, even through all that, I like 'Tone," Moore said. "He's a great player, a great teammate, one of the guys in practice that teaches and motivates. I enjoy being his teammate."