Kathy Willens, Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Mark Sanchez jogged onto the field for the first play of the game and immediately had to call an embarrassing timeout.
It was just about the only thing that stopped the New York Jets all afternoon.
Sanchez became the first Jets quarterback to throw two touchdown passes and run for two more scores as New York got off to a fast start and improved its positioning in the AFC playoff race by cruising to a 37-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
"I was happy we had another opening-drive touchdown," Sanchez said. "It set the tone early, and we converted on some big third downs and didn't get too many third downs, which was good. We had some explosive plays and the run game really took off."
The Jets, plagued by slow starts all season, opened with a timeout — and boos from the MetLife Stadium crowd — because they had the wrong personnel on the field, but rebounded to score 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.
New York (8-5) also leapfrogged Cincinnati, Tennessee and Oakland, all 7-6 after losses Sunday, and took over the last wild-card spot in the AFC.
"It's just what we've been talking about for the last 12, 13 weeks," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "It all came to form today, which is what we needed. We kind of hold our own destiny in our hands and it was about getting a good win."
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 along with three catches for 58 yards, and Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson each caught touchdown passes for the Jets, who have won three straight and improved to 6-1 at home.
"I guess it would be our best game so far this year," coach Rex Ryan said.
It might have been a costly win, though, as starting safety Jim Leonhard was lost early with an injured right knee after an interception. He was scheduled to have an MRI exam on his right knee Monday to determine the severity of the injury, Many teammates thought it could be season-ending, but the team would await the results before making an official determination.
"I'm hopeful it's not that bad," coach Rex Ryan said, "but it's never good when you need help coming off."
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.
"The Jets put a lot of pressure (on you)," Palko said. "That's just what they do. They're a lot like the Steelers. They have guys all over the place."
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.
"That generally gets you beat," said Haley, who wouldn't elaborate on what he said to the officials. "The one thing we can't do is lose our composure on calls."
Sanchez's 1-yard run gave the Jets a score on their first drive, the second straight game they've done that, but it began ominously as he had to call the timeout.
- Live streams: 4A & 5A baseball tournament...
- Looking back: Ray Harroun wins 1st...
- UCLA agrees to 15-year deal with Under Armour
- Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles selected to host...
- Even before easy win, good day for Serena...
- Westbrook, Thunder put Warriors on brink of...
- 'Lost my way': Murray pushed to 5 sets again...
- USMNT: RSL's Beckerman starts, Timbers' Nagbe...
- ESPN's Jake Trotter says it's 'Big 12... 152
- Morning links: Broncos like Devontae... 68
- Brad Rock: BYU-Utah hoops are back... 50
- Rivalry renewed: BYU, Utah agree to a... 49
- Brad Rock: This is the Big 12 —of... 41
- Morning links: BYU shirt summits Mt.... 37
- Why can't we be friends? BYU-Utah fans... 30
- Video: 100 days until college football... 27