NFL: Chargers 27, Jets 17
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. • Sack after sack, the San Diego Chargers made things downright miserable for Greg McElroy.
The Chargers took McElroy down 11 times, tying the team record and ruining the New York Jets quarterback's first NFL start in place of the benched Mark Sanchez in a 27-17 victory Sunday.
McElroy, the third-stringer, moved the offense for the Jets (6-9) early but faced pressure all game. With a chance to get New York back into it with less than 5 minutes remaining, McElroy was taken down by Shaun Phillips the Chargers' eighth sack of the game and lost the ball. Phillips, who had 2 1/2 sacks recovered and San Diego sealed the win, but not before sacking McElroy three more times.
Kendall Reyes finished with 3 1/2 sacks and Corey Liuget two for the Chargers (6-9), who also had 11 against Dallas in 1986 and finished one off the NFL mark set by several teams, last by the Giants in 2007.
With Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith facing uncertain futures, it was a dominant effort for the defense with one game left.
McElroy became the first Jets quarterback to be sacked 11 times since David Norrie by Dallas in 1987, a game played by replacements.
"It was great on their part," said Rex Ryan, guaranteed his first losing season as Jets coach, "but ridiculous on our part."
With most of the pregame drama centered around whether Sanchez or Tim Tebow would back up McElroy turned out, it was both Philip Rivers threw touchdown tosses of 37 yards to Danario Alexander and 34 yards to Antonio Gates to lead the Chargers.
It was the 82nd touchdown catch of Gates' career, snapping a tie with Lance Alworth for the franchise lead.
Rivers was a modest 11 of 22 for 165 yards, while McElroy finished 14 of 24 for 185 yards with an interception and the lost fumble. Both offenses struggled, though, as San Diego went 2 of 12 on third downs, while New York was 2 of 11.
Ryan had Sanchez and Tebow active for the home finale, the first time all three quarterbacks were available for a game. With the decision, Ryan avoided having to designate either Sanchez or Tebow as the No. 2 quarterback Sunday. Both were listed as the backup on the team's flip card in the press box.
Ryan benched Sanchez after the quarterback had five turnovers in New York's 14-10 loss at Tennessee last Monday night. Tebow was leapfrogged on the depth chart earlier this week when Ryan chose to start McElroy over the popular backup for Sunday's game.
Ryan announced after the game that McElroy would start the season finale next Sunday at Buffalo.
The Jets ran the wildcat a handful of times but with wide receiver Jeremy Kerley instead of Tebow, who stood on the sideline the entire game without getting a snap.
Several times throughout the game, with the defense on the field, McElroy and Sanchez often sat with offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, while Tebow was off to the side talking with other teammates.
McElroy jogged onto the field to big cheers from the crowd that filled MetLife Stadium only halfway.
Moments later, the fans were booing as Micheal Spurlock took a punt 63 yards for a touchdown to put the Chargers up 7-0 just under 2 minutes into the game.
Spurlock caught the punt, got some good blocks and then stiff-armed Robert Malone before zipping into the end zone.
It was the first punt returned against the Jets for a touchdown since Oakland's Phillip Buchanon took one 78 yards in 2003 a span of 150 games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
The Jets came right back, though, to tie it at 7 on Shonn Greene's 1-yard touchdown run two plays after McElroy nearly ran it in from the 8 but was ruled down just short of the goal line.
Throwing another wrinkle into the Jets' quarterback quandary, after McElroy completed a short pass to Greene, who turned it into a 30-yard rumble, Kerley out of the wildcat took the direct snap and lofted a 42-yard pass that hung up in the air but was snagged by Clyde Gates.
After a three-and-out by San Diego, McElroy led the Jets back into the end zone as Greene plowed in for another 1-yard score to give New York a 14-7 lead.
It was the first time the Jets had at least two touchdowns in the opening quarter since 2009 at Oakland.
San Diego got to the New York 16 on a fourth-down conversion by Alexander, who caught a short slant pass from Rivers and took it 18 yards.
But consecutive holding penalties on tackle Mike Harris pushed the Chargers back to the 36. Four plays later, Nick Novak kicked a 46-yard field that was negated by yet another mistake, this time because the Chargers had 12 men on the field.
Punter Mike Scifres ran out onto the field, and then Turner took a timeout before sending Novak out again. Novak tied a season high by making a 51-yarder to cut the deficit to 14-10.
The Chargers opened the second half with a 37-yard touchdown catch by Alexander that gave San Diego the lead.
McElroy made his first costly mistake of the game late in the third quarter when his long pass intended for Gates was intercepted by Corey Lynch. Novak kicked a 27-yard field goal moments later to make it 27-14.
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