EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Handoff after handoff, Shonn Greene took the ball — and just kept running.
Rex Ryan’s ‘‘Ground-and-Pound’’ offense returned in a big way Sunday as Greene ran for a career-high 161 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries to power the New York Jets to a 35-9 rout of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
‘‘When you’re running the ball that well,’’ quarterback Mark Sanchez said, ‘‘you never want to stop.’’
The Jets rolled up 252 yards on the ground after struggling in the running game for weeks, Sanchez was mistake-free in an efficient performance, and Tim Tebow had a 23-yard pass on a fake punt that sent the MetLife Stadium into a frenzy. Even the Jets’ maligned defense was able to frustrate Luck into three turnovers as New York snapped a two-game slide at home that had many wondering if the season was about to spiral out of control.
‘‘We want to be a team no one wants to play,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘And, we’re on our way.’’
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 rout of Buffalo. After four straight games with less than 50 percent completion rate, Sanchez finished 11 of 18 for just 82 yards, but had touchdown throws to Stephen Hill and Jason Hill.
‘‘Wins come in all shapes and forms,’’ Sanchez said. ‘‘I was proud of the way we were able to run the ball.’’
With the way the Jets, particularly Greene, performed behind an offensive line blasting open holes to run through, Sanchez didn’t need to air it out.
‘‘I think we can do it every week against any team,’’ Greene said. ‘‘It’s just a matter of us executing, not stopping ourselves and working hard during the week.’’
The frustrating thing for the Colts (2-3) is that they knew the Jets would try to run the ball on them. And they still couldn’t do anything to stop them.
‘‘We wanted Sanchez to have to beat us with his arm,’’ cornerback Jerraud Powers said. ‘‘If we stopped the run, that was what they were going to have to do. Whoever we play next week, that’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to run the ball until we stop it.’’
Indianapolis 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 for Bruce Arians’ first win while filling in for Chuck Pagano, hospitalized while being treated for leukemia.
Luck finished 22 of 44 for 280 yards, two interceptions and a lost fumble on a day he misfired a handful of times. Luck was driving the Colts for a possible touchdown 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.
‘‘It’s learning how to be consistent, and that’s something I've struggled with,’’ Luck said. ‘‘I think I played very poorly this week after a decent half of football last weekend. As a team, we have to learn to come out and consistently be good.’’
The Colts were missing 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; 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 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 at quarterback and ran 3 yards for a first down, setting up Sanchez’s 5-yard TD toss to 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.
‘‘We were very efficient, effective,’’ Tebow said. ‘‘We had some big runs, threw the ball really well in the red area and converted on third down. It was a pretty good day for us.’’
Greene 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 with a shoulder injury.
Both McKnight and Powell were scheduled to have MRI exams Monday.
Greene got the touchdown hat trick with a 2-yard run with 1:05 left, a few minutes after Muhammad Wilkerson forced a fumble on a sack of Luck and David Harris recovered at the Colts 14.
‘‘If you can’t block and you can’t tackle, you can’t win,’’ Arians said. ‘‘It’s fundamentals, things we identified going into the game: fake punts, stopping the run, protecting the quarterback. Red zone offense and defense were keys to the game. We didn’t win in any of those areas.’’
NOTES: Jets CB Antonio Cromartie had two interceptions for TDs called back — one on a personal foul penalty on Aaron Maybin and another on a pass interference call on Cromartie. ... Jets first-rounder Quinton Coples had 1½ sacks, his first. ... The Colts were 3 of 11 on third downs, while the Jets were 6 of 12.
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