Just about everything worked for the New York Jets — for a change. Even their long-struggling running game.
Shonn Greene ran for a career-high 161 yards and three touchdowns to power a rejuvenated “Ground-and-Pound” offense that rushed for 252 yards, Mark Sanchez was solid and efficient, and Tim Tebow made a few big plays in a 35-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Even the Jets’ maligned defense was able to shut down Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense as New York snapped a two-game losing streak that had many wondering if the season was about to spiral out of control.
For a week, at least, Sanchez was in total control and the Jets (3-3) had their best overall performance — save for a handful of personal foul penalties — since an opening-week rout of Buffalo. After four straight games with less than 50 percent completion percentage, Sanchez finished 11 of 18 for just 82 yards, but had touchdown throws to Stephen Hill and Jason Hill.
With the way the Jets, particularly Greene, ran the ball behind an offensive line blasting open holes to run through all day, Sanchez didn’t need to air it out against the Colts.
Indianapolis (2-3) trailed 21-6 at halftime and couldn’t erase a big deficit for the second straight week after coming back from 18 points and beating Green Bay last Sunday.
Luck finished 22 of 44 for 280 yards and two interceptions and a lost fumble on a day when he misfired a handful of times. Luck was driving the Colts down the field for a possible touchdown drive with less than 7 minutes left, but Ellis Lankster ended that when he intercepted the rookie’s toss for Donnie Avery in the end zone.
The Colts were playing with sacks leader Robert Mathis, and lost defensive end Cory Redding to an injured right knee in the first quarter. Indianapolis was also without leading rusher Donald Brown, and replacement Vick Ballard had just 25 yards in his first NFL start.
Tebow helped the Jets take a 21-6 lead just before halftime on a drive that was kept alive by some trickery. On fourth-and-11 from the Colts 40, the do-it-all backup quarterback — lined up as the punt protector — took the direct snap, stepped forward and tossed a jump pass to linebacker Nick Bellore, who rumbled 23 yards as the crowd at MetLife Stadium went wild.
Three plays later, Tebow was in at quarterback and ran 3 yards for a first down on third-and-1 from the 8, setting up Sanchez’s 5-yard TD toss to Jason Hill with 27 seconds left. Tebow met Sanchez as he ran toward the sideline and the two leaped and bumped hips to celebrate the score.
Greene, who had 32 carries, made it 28-6 late in the third quarter on a 4-yard spin-and-run on a drive sparked by Joe McKnight’s 61-yard run that gave the Jets the ball at Indianapolis’ 6. McKnight injured his left ankle on the play — three plays after Bilal Powell was lost for the game with a shoulder injury.
Adam Vinatieri’s 47-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter cut the Colts’ deficit to 28-9.
Greene got the touchdown hat trick with a 2-yard run with 1:05 left, coming a few minutes after Muhammad Wilkerson forced a fumble on a sack of Luck and David Harris recovered at the Colts 14.
Sanchez led the Jets on a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive early in the second quarter capped by a perfectly placed 5-yard pass to rookie Stephen Hill, who returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury.
The Jets got the ball back three offensive plays later when Antonio Cromartie picked off Luck’s pass that tipped off Reggie Wayne’s hands. Cromartie took off for the end zone and appeared to score, but the touchdown was wiped out by Aaron Maybin’s personal foul penalty when he hit Luck on Cromartie’s return. As part of several rules changes last year, a defensive player can’t block a quarterback from the blindside on a return.
New York got the ball at the Colts 35, and still got into the end zone on Greene’s 10-yard touchdown run.
It appeared Cromartie had yet another chance at an interception return for touchdown when he picked off Luck on the Colts’ next drive, but he was called for pass interference on Wayne.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.