Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets got going in a hurry — for a change — and never stopped.
The Kansas City Chiefs? Well, this is one they'd like to quickly forget.
Sanchez threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as the Jets kept pace in the AFC playoff race by cruising to a 37-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
The Jets, plagued by slow starts all season, scored 28 points in the first half and were helped by an inept Chiefs offense that managed just 4 total yards in the first two quarters.
Sanchez was 13 of 21 for 181 yards before being pulled for Mark Brunell with the game in hand, and was cheered warmly in pregame introductions after being booed in the team's last home game two weeks ago. Shonn Greene had a season-high 129 yards rushing and a score, and Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson each caught touchdown passes for the Jets (8-5), who have won three straight and improved to 6-1 at home.
It might have been a costly win, though, as starting safety Jim Leonhard was lost early with an injured right knee. There was no immediate word on the severity.
Tyler Palko was sacked five times by the Jets in a miserable outing by the penalty-plagued Chiefs (5-8) a week after the quarterback earned his first victory as a starter at Chicago. He was 3 for 8 for 11 yards in the half, sacked three times, and the Chiefs had 4 total yards and one first down, compared to the Jets' 16. Palko had a much better second half, finishing 16 of 32 for 195 yards and a touchdown and an interception.
Dwayne Bowe dropped a would-be touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter, but things got ugly for the Chiefs way before that.
In the most brutal stretch for Kansas City, the Chiefs were penalized five times for 81 yards during the Jets' final touchdown drive. One of those was an unsportsmanlike conduct call on coach Todd Haley, who let his frustrations out on the officials. Kansas City finished with 11 penalties.
Sanchez's 1-yard run gave the Jets a score on their first drive, as New York got off to the type of quick start it has been lacking most of this season. But, it began ominously as Sanchez was forced to call a timeout — to loud boos from the fans at MetLife Stadium — before New York even ran a play because of some apparent confusion about which personnel should've been on the field.
The Jets rebounded nicely with an 11-play, 77-yard drive that was jumpstarted by Greene's 31-yard rumble on the opening snap and helped by Patrick Turner's 10-yard catch on third-and-4 from the Chiefs 40. On third-and-goal from the 3, Sanchez threw incomplete into the end zone, but Chiefs cornerback Javier Arenas was called for holding, giving the Jets a new set of downs at the 1.
Sanchez took the snap, faked the handoff to Greene and it appeared every Chiefs player bit as the Jets quarterback rolled to his left and strolled into the end zone untouched for his career-high fourth rushing touchdown of the season.
Ryan Succop's 53-yard field goal with 4:36 left in the opening quarter made it 7-3.
Palko, starting again with newly signed Kyle Orton inactive with an injured right index finger, made a poor throw intended for Steve Breaston that Leonhard stepped in front of and picked off easily early in the second quarter. But, Breaston grabbed Leonhard for a twisting tackle on which the safety's right knee was injured. Leonhard was helped to the sideline by two trainers, carted to the locker room and ruled out for the rest of the game.
On the next play, Sanchez, facing heavy pressure, dumped the ball off quickly to Greene, who zipped down the left sideline 36 yards before going out of bounds at the 2. After Tomlinson lost 2 yards on a run, Sanchez found Holmes in the middle of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead with 10:02 left in the half.
Greene's 7-yard touchdown run put New York ahead 21-3 with 3:56 remaining, after a called fumble was challenged by coach Rex Ryan and overturned by officials. Tomlinson had a 31-yard catch-and-run to get the Jets down to the Chiefs 13. Greene then took the handoff on the next play, scooted 6 yards, Tamba Hali knocked the ball loose, but the running back was ruled down. Greene rumbled up the middle on the next play and ran over a Chiefs defender on his way into the end zone.
Tomlinson made it 28-3 with 1:15 left in the half when he took a screen pass from Sanchez, made a few cutback moves and got a big block from center Nick Mangold for a 19-yard touchdown. It marked the first time the Jets scored 28 points in an opening half since scoring 40 against St. Louis in 2008.
Things started getting out of hand midway through the third quarter when the Chiefs were called for three straight penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct on an irate Haley, helping move the Jets all the way from their own 3 to the 43. A few plays later, Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis were called for consecutive pass interference penalties, bringing the ball to the 4.
On third-and-goal, Sanchez took the snap and rolled into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown and a 35-3 lead.
One of the few highlights for the Chiefs came when Jerheme Urban caught a 24-yard touchdown pass — in between four Jets defenders — to make it 35-10 with under 13 minutes left.
Sione Pouha tackled Jackie Battle for a safety late in the game after T.J. Conley's punt was downed at the 1.