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Chargers, Jets struggling to finish line

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Chargers, Jets struggling to finish line

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Norv Turner knows the end is likely near for him with the San Diego Chargers.

General manager A.J. Smith might be out soon, too.

There are two games left to play before an offseason of uncertainty begins. And, the New York Jets' Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum know the feeling.

Regular playoff participants a few years ago, both franchises are struggling to the finish line. And a winter of big changes could be in store.

``It's been difficult, in terms of offensively, and I can only speak for my side of the ball and what I'm able to contribute,'' Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. ``Not playing up to our expectations and not playing up to the level that we've set and the standard of what we set for ourselves, sometimes it's frustrating because you do everything the right way. You prepare and you work hard. ... Not being able to capitalize on the season, it's been tough.''

Both the Chargers (5-9) and Jets (6-8) are out of the playoff race, and the two will play Sunday at MetLife Stadium, hoping to end the season on a positive note.

Mark Sanchez has been benched by Ryan, who is turning to third-stringer Greg McElroy to make his first NFL start Sunday. McElroy stepped in for Sanchez three weeks ago to rally New York to a 7-6 win over Arizona, and has leapfrogged Tim Tebow on the depth chart.

``This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,'' McElroy said. ``This is a great moment and a great milestone in my career. Obviously, this is something I've looked forward to and I've dreamed about my entire life. I'm thrilled to have this opportunity.''

McElroy, a seventh-round pick out of Alabama in 2011, could be auditioning for a job beyond the next two weeks. The Jets are considering all of their options, including trades, regarding Sanchez and Tebow, so McElroy could very well be in position next season to compete for the starting job with good showings against the Chargers and Buffalo Bills.

``I'm taking it one step at a time, and that's the only way you can look at it,'' McElroy said. ``You can't get caught up in next week against Buffalo. You can't get caught up in the offseason. You can't get caught up in next year. Just enjoy this game and the fact that I'm able to step out there on the field against San Diego. Enjoy it, make the most of it and have fun out there.''

As of Thursday, Ryan hadn't decided whether McElroy's backup will be Sanchez or Tebow - or both. Tebow was expected to be a major part of the offense, but instead has been just a minor role player. The wildcat-style offense didn't produce as expected, and Tebow hasn't gotten many opportunities to remind everyone why he was one of the most dynamic and exciting players in the NFL last season while leading the Denver Broncos to a playoff victory.

``Every opportunity you get, you want to make the most of and I'd have loved to have more of an opportunity to just play quarterback,'' said a clearly disappointed Tebow, speaking in a low tone. ``And obviously, that's my goal. I'll just make the most of these last two weeks and see what happens after that.''

There could be plenty, and Tannenbaum and Ryan aren't even certain to stick around. They helped turn the franchise around in 2009, when the Jets went to the first of their two straight AFC title games. But there's been a lot of disappointment since then with New York missing out on the playoffs two years in a row.

``Right now, I'm not looking further than this game against San Diego and then we have one more game,'' Ryan said. ``We'll see what happens. My focus has to be with those two games and that's it.''

Turner is taking a similar approach despite recent reports that the Chargers will make a move to replace him after the season. San Diego has dealt with several key injuries this season, including to wide receiver Vincent Brown, tackle Jared Gaither and running back Ryan Mathews, who broke his left collarbone in the Chargers' 31-7 loss to Carolina last Sunday.

Turner said regardless of what happens, he would like to continue coaching in the NFL next season, even if it means as an offensive coordinator elsewhere. The Jets could potentially be in the market for one after their offense struggled mightily - ranked 30th overall - in Tony Sparano's first season as the coordinator in New York.

``I think people that know me know that I'm a coach,'' Turner said. ``I like coaching. I want to coach. I think you get to a point where there are things that are important to you. If I continue to coach, I want to be in a good situation, a place where you have an opportunity to win and be in a situation that there are coaches I've worked with and been around.''

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has had his share of troubles this season, just like Sanchez, and has 47 turnovers in the last two years. Despite all that, he needs 210 yards passing to become the first Chargers player with five straight seasons of 3,500 or more yards passing.

San Diego still looks at Rivers as a franchise-type quarterback, and sitting him the last two weeks - as the Jets might do with Sanchez - wasn't in Turner's game plan.

``For our team and for our situation, a change was never a consideration because the things that were keeping us from getting done what we needed to get done had a lot more to do with other spots,'' Turner said. ``I know ultimately the quarterback gets a lot of the credit or blame, but it just wasn't the issue with our team as we went through our season.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.