Bill Kostroun, Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — This was the New York Jets team Rex Ryan had promised all season.
The offense jumped out to a quick start and kept going. The defense smothered the Kansas City Chiefs and was downright stubborn.
"All the way around," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said, "this was probably our best team effort."
No doubt about it.
Mark Sanchez threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as New York cruised to a 37-10 victory Sunday and improved its positioning in the AFC playoff race in a big way. The Jets (8-5) leapfrogged Cincinnati, Tennessee and Oakland, all 7-6 after losses, and took over the last wild-card spot.
"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."
Holding on to that playoff spot won't be easy, and the Jets know it. They play at Philadelphia next Sunday, the Giants on Christmas Eve and then at Miami in the regular-season finale. Win them all, though, and they'll be in the postseason for the third straight year under Ryan.
"Our goal has always been to go to the Super Bowl," left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "This year is no different. The season has kind of had ups and the season has kind of had downs, but we're still fighting to get there. That's the original goal and we're sticking to it."
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.
"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."
Sanchez was 13 of 21 for 181 yards and became the first Jets quarterback with multiple touchdown passes and runs in the same game before being pulled for Mark Brunell. Shonn Greene had a season-high 129 yards rushing and a score along with three catches for 58 yards, and Santonio Holmes and Tomlinson each caught touchdown passes for the Jets, 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 after an interception. He was scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday. Many teammates thought it could be season-ending, but the team was awaiting the results before making an official determination.
"I'm hopeful it's not that bad," 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 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 with 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.
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