1:00 PM ET, December 2, 2012
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets needed someone to save the game, and possibly their season.
More Cardinals-Jets Coverage
Jets coach Rex Ryan had to bench his starting quarterback Sunday, but that wasn't the big surprise in the team's 7-6 win, writes Rich Cimini. Story
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez took a seat Sunday, but he might not be the only one to pay for the team's futility, writes Johnette Howard. Story
Greg McElroy, a former SEC standout at Alabama, had made no noise on NFL fields prior to Sunday. But that all changed when he replaced Mark Sanchez and led the Jets to a win, writes Jane McManus. Story
McElroy threw a touchdown pass to cap his first NFL drive early in the fourth quarter, leading New York to an ugly 7-6 victory Sunday and sending the Arizona Cardinals to their eighth straight loss.
"It's just something that I sensed, that I felt," Ryan said. "When you're around this game long enough, you get that feeling that, `You know what? I've seen enough, and it's time to make that change."
With Tebow inactive as he heals from two broken ribs and the Jets needing to win their last five games to even have a chance of making the playoffs, Ryan pulled Sanchez for McElroy late in the third quarter -- as the crowd at MetLife Stadium cheered wildly.
McElroy then led the Jets (5-7) to their only points of the day with an impressive 10-play drive, rolling to his right on a bootleg and tossing a 1-yard pass to a wide-open Jeff Cumberland in the end zone 5 seconds into the fourth quarter.
"I'm really happy for the team, and really happy for Greg," Sanchez said. "He came in and played his butt off."
Fans chanted "Mc-El-Roy!" throughout the first three quarters as Sanchez went 10 of 21 for 97 yards and three interceptions, including two by former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes.
"It's tough to kind of gauge the energy," McElroy said, smiling. "Obviously, I didn't have, like, a decibel meter where I could tell what the crowd noise was, but I was excited about getting a shot to get in there."
As McElroy got the offense moving, Sanchez stood on the sideline along with Tebow and next to offensive coordinator Tony Sparano.
McElroy, reading the plays off his left wristband after getting few snaps in practice all week, was cheered with each completion, including a 13-yarder on third down to Jeremy Kerley with 3 minutes left that helped seal the victory. McElroy finished 5 of 7 for 29 yards against the Cardinals (4-8).
Sanchez left with 4:48 left in the third quarter and the Jets trailing 3-0 after a third-down pass was batted down by Ronald Talley. Sanchez was told by Sparano that his day was over, and then met Ryan on the sideline as McElroy began to warm up.
"From the get-go, from the first play, it just wasn't my day," Sanchez said.
McElroy Sparks Jets
Greg McElroy drove the Jets to their only points and nearly matched Mark Sanchez's yardage effort in less than half the drives during Sunday's comeback victory.
Jets offense by QB, Sunday
|Yds per play||3.5||5.6 <<|
|>> Excluding 2 kneel-downs|
It should make for an interesting week around the Jets' facility. If Tebow is healthy enough to play, he could be in line to start next week -- at Jacksonville against his hometown Jaguars.
If not, Ryan will have to take a hard look at McElroy, a 2011 seventh-round pick out of Alabama who missed last season with a thumb injury.
"I'll let you guys know who's going to be the quarterback when I'm ready to," Ryan said. "We'll look at our situation and evaluate as the week goes on."
While the Jets' quarterback situation is unclear, the sagging Cardinals have their own troubles at the position. Ryan Lindley was ineffective in his second NFL start as Arizona went an abysmal 0 for 15 in third-down situations.
"This whole streak we've been in isn't any fun," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "You work hard as a team, you prepare. I don't see any finger-pointing or fracturing. We've got a good group of players and a good group of young leaders.
"Make no mistake: they want to win."
Lindley was harassed by a defense that took full advantage of an unsteady rookie quarterback. He went 10 of 31 for 72 yards and an interception while playing for Kevin Kolb, who missed his sixth straight game with a rib injury.
"I felt we were going to chip away and get something going, but it kind of stopped for us," Lindley said. "A lot of things went wrong that could have been done better. You have to pick up and move on."
On McElroy's second drive, he completed a swing pass to Kahlil Bell, who fumbled deep in Jets territory. Lindley connected with Michael Floyd on a 16-yard gain, but things stalled and Arizona got a 35-yard field goal by Jay Feely, another ex-Jet, that made it 7-6 with 10:39 left.
SportsNation: Jets bench Sanchez
Mark Sanchez finally earned seat on the Jets' bench, but it was Greg McElroy -- not the injured Tim Tebow -- replacing him. Who should start for the Jets going forward? Cast your vote!
The only scoring in the opening half came on Feely's 48-yarder as time expired. The 10-play drive was helped by a fake punt on from the Cardinals 25 when Rashad Johnson took a direct snap and zipped downfield 40 yards.
Things started on an ominous note for the Jets as Sanchez was intercepted by Rhodes on New York's first offensive play. Ryan criticized Rhodes in his book "Play Like You Mean It" last year for being a "selfish" player, and New York traded him after the 2009 season.
"It's a tough situation for (Sanchez) now where everyone is pretty much against him," Rhodes said. "Whatever he does that's not positive will be taken like it was today. I talked to him during the game when got benched. I went over there and talked to him on the side and told him to keep his head up."
New York's Nick Folk hit the left upright on a 46-yard field-goal attempt and dinged a 52-yarder off the right upright. ... The Jets, ranked 30th against the run, held the Cardinals to 67 yards rushing, 40 coming on Johnson's fake punt. ... Shonn Greene quietly had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, 104 on 24 carries. ... Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald was held to one catch for 23 yards.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 02: Kerry Rhodes #25 of the Arizona Cardinals intercepts a pass from Mark Sanchez...(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||2.5||3.9|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||0-0||0-0|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|FG||0:03||Jay Feely 48 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 10 plays, 61 yds, 2:31
|TD||15:00||Jeff Cumberland 1 Yard Pass From Greg Mcelroy (Nick Folk Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 69 yds, 4:53
|FG||10:39||Jay Feely 35 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 6 plays, 18 yds, 2:03
Greg McElroy had a 95.9 Total QBR in 13 action plays after replacing Mark Sanchez on Sunday. It was the highest QBR by any non-starter with at least that many action plays since 2008 and the 2nd-highest over the last 5 seasons.[+]
QBR: Mark Sanchez (4.4) and Ryan Lindley (3.0) had a combined QBR of 3.5 on Sunday, the lowest by a pair of starters since 2010 and tied for the 4th lowest in any game over the last 5 seasons. It also marked just the 3rd game since 2008 in which both starters had a QBR under 5.0.[+]
Lowest Combined Total QBR by Starting QBs Since 2008
Larry Fitzgerald caught only one of his eight targets Sunday against the Jets for 23 yards, and was missed (over or underthrown) five times. Ryan Lindley is 5-for-25 targeting Fitzgerald for 65 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions over the last three weeks. Lindley has missed on 14 of his 25 throws targeting Fitzgerald.
The Jets offense was much more efficient once McElroy came in the game Sunday, gaining nearly as many yards in 4 drives as it did in 10 drives with Sanchez at the helm. And it took McElroy 10 plays to put points on the board after Sanchez was shut out for 47 plays.[+]
Jets Offense by Quarterback - Sunday vs Cardinals
The Jets 7-6 win was their first in which they scored 7 points or fewer since 2003, when they beat the Steelers 6-0.
Should it really be a surprise that Greg McElroy came in and immediately performed better than Mark Sanchez? Other than the round they were drafted in -- Sanchez in the 1st and McElroy in the 7th -- what did Sanchez show in college to be a better prospect than McElroy? Sanchez went 2-1 against top-10 teams while McElroy went 7-2 and led his team to a national title.[+]
Who's The Better Quarterback? - College Careers
ESPN Stats & Information