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Chargers rack up 11 sacks in 27-17 win over Jets

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Chargers rack up 11 sacks in 27-17 win over Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) One after another, the San Diego Chargers barreled into Greg McElroy and slammed him to the turf.

A whopping 11 times.

That's a lot of bruises for the New York Jets' new - and sore - starting quarterback.

Led by Kendall Reyes' 3 1/2 sacks, the Chargers made things downright miserable for McElroy, tying the team record for sacks in a 27-17 victory Sunday.

``You don't do anything different, but you know it is going to be tougher for him because of his lack of experience,'' Reyes said. ``You just want to get in his face.''

That's exactly what San Diego did as Norv Turner awarded game balls to each one of his players that took McElroy down - and he sure needed a bunch of them. Shaun Phillips had 2 1/2 sacks, Corey Liuget added two more, and four other players helped the Chargers (6-9) finish one short of the NFL record set by a handful of teams, last by the Giants in 2007.

``A lot of those sacks weren't where they beat a guy quick and went,'' Turner said. ``It was guys staying relentless and staying after the quarterback. You're playing a young quarterback. You'd like to be able to pressure him and disrupt it.''

McElroy, the third-stringer, got the start for the Jets (6-9) in place of the benched Mark Sanchez. Rex Ryan announced after the game that McElroy will start in the season finale at Buffalo next Sunday.

He leapfrogged Tim Tebow on the depth chart, and the popular backup never took the field even though all three quarterbacks were active for the first time this season. Tebow also took no snaps in the team's wildcat package in which he is usually featured.

Tebow said ``it just happened'' that he didn't play in the package usually reserved for him, but ESPN New York reported that he actually asked out of running the wildcat earlier in the week because he was miffed he was passed over for the starting job, according to sources. The Jets used wide receiver Jeremy Kerley in the wildcat as Tebow remained on the sideline. Kerley completed a 42-yard pass to Clyde Gates out of the wildcat, and had a few other snaps out of the scheme.

``Well, it's been disappointing,'' Tebow said of the season. ``Obviously, it didn't go as we thought, as I had hoped, but sometimes in life you have that. Sometimes you have setbacks and you just have to look at them as another opportunity for you to step back up and keep working and figure out what to do.''

Meanwhile, with Turner and general manager A.J. Smith facing uncertain futures - and lots of speculation that they'll be out after the season - San Diego matched the team sacks mark set against Dallas in 1986.

``The game plan was definitely was to get pressure on him, sack him and make him nervous,'' Liuget said of McElroy, ``and make them want to run the ball.''

With a chance to get New York back into it with less than 5 minutes remaining, McElroy was taken down by Phillips - the Chargers' eighth sack of the game - and lost the ball. Phillips recovered and San Diego sealed the win, but not before sacking McElroy three more times.

``I'm disappointed,'' McElroy said. ``This team's goal was to finish 8-8 and win the last two games and we're disappointed we're going to finish short of that goal.''

McElroy, the team's seventh-round pick out of Alabama last year, 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 Ryan, guaranteed his first losing season as Jets coach, ``but ridiculous on our part.''

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. After Gates caught his milestone touchdown, the entire offense celebrated with him in the end zone.

``There is no better feeling than to score and have 10 other guys run up to you and congratulate you,'' Gates said.

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. But the Chargers' defense bailed out Rivers and the offense.

``That's awesome,'' Rivers said. ``It was certainly fun to watch them when they're rolling like that.''

Micheal Spurlock took a punt 63 yards for a touchdown to put the Chargers up 7-0 just under 2 minutes into the game. 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, with two 1-yard touchdown runs by Shonn Greene to take a 14-7 lead.

The Chargers opened the second half with a 37-yard touchdown catch by Alexander that gave San Diego a 17-14 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

``Offensively, you're not beating anybody when you play like that,'' Ryan said. ``It's just hard to put into words. You get sacked 11 times, it's extremely frustrating. I expected a lot better, but that never happened.''

NOTES: The Jets held a moment of silence before the game for the victims of the Connecticut shootings last Friday, and had banners on the sidelines that read ``S.H.E.S'' for Sandy Hook Elementary School. ... Chargers rookie S Brandon Taylor was carted off the field in the third quarter after injuring his right knee. Jets DB Ellis Lankster left in the second half with a concussion.

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Scott Boras holds all the cards representing Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg

Scott Boras holds all the cards representing Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg

When Stephen Strasburg opted out of the remaining four years of his contract with the Nationals in November, the team understood it wasn’t going to be the only club bidding for his services.

So when reports broke that the New York Yankees were among the teams meeting with Strasburg, one of the premiere free agents on the market, it likely came as no surprise to the Nationals’ brass in D.C.

But after ESPN reported Thursday that the Yankees have made fellow top free agent starter Gerrit Cole “their clear offseason priority,” the man representing both of them has all the leverage.

On NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk podcast this week, Todd Dybas sat down with fellow beat writers Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post and MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.

When talking about Strasburg’s prospects as a free agent, Dybas pointed to the unique situation the Nationals and Yankees, among other teams, are facing while courting the top two starters of free agency.

“We kind of have a weird dynamic because Scott Boras has the No. 1 pitcher and the No. 1A pitcher,” Dybas said. “It’s not two agents playing off of each other. It’s one guy probably playing his guys against each other going forward and trying to run up both their prices concurrently.”

The Yankees’ interest alone is enough to drive up the expected prices of both Strasburg and Cole. But as Collier notes, New York hasn’t dug too deep into its pockets over the last few seasons.

“The name, the Yankees, still carries so much weight and fear—for people who think they’re going to lose all their best players to the Yankees—but that’s just not the way the team has operated for the last handful of years or so,” Collier said.

However, if the ESPN report rings true and the Yankees do offer Cole a record-setting contract, that would certainly take them out of the running for Strasburg. Yet the high-spending Los Angeles Dodgers are also rumored to be in on Strasburg, meaning the Yankees’ pursuit of Cole likely won’t do much to reduce the price for the Nationals’ free agent.

In fact, Boras could use the fact that Cole’s price is so unaffordable for most teams and try to convince other clubs that Strasburg is a bargain. That could pull more teams into the bidding war and drive up his price.

Dybas believes Strasburg will sign for six years and $200 million, while Dougherty thinks Boras will seek a similar contract to the one another one of his clients received: Max Scherzer and his seven-year, $210 million deal he signed with Washington in 2015.

For their full conversation about both Strasburg and fellow free agent Anthony Rendon, you can listen to the Nationals Talk podcast on Art19, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Rui Hachimura may have had his best NBA game yet against the Sixers

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Rui Hachimura may have had his best NBA game yet against the Sixers

WASHINGTON -- When Wizards coaches and executives rave about Rui Hachimura's potential to be a two-way player, they mean he can play just like he did on Thursday night in the team's 119-113 win over the Sixers.

It was arguably Hachimura's best game yet as an NBA player, a well-rounded performance of 27 points (11-18 FG), seven rebounds and two steals. He didn't set career-highs in any major category, but he was effective on both ends of the floor.

On offense, he lived in the midrange, making the Sixers pay for leaving him open from 15 to 20 feet out. He had 15 points in the second quarter alone.

And on the other end, he did an excellent job playing team defense. He kept an eye on his man while also knowing when to strike on double-teams.

Add it all up and even Hachimura believes it was probably his most complete game so far.

"I think it might be," Hachimura said. "I helped the team defensively and offensively."

There was one play on defense that stood out that didn't show up in the box score. The Wizards employed double-teams on Sixers star Joel Embiid all night and in the second half Hachimura charged in to help with Embiid in the post. He swatted at the ball with perfect timing to bounce it off Embiid's knee and out of bounds for a turnover.

It was the type of play that displayed Hachimura's instincts for team defense. And though it may take time for him to develop into a reliable on-ball defender, like most young players, he can be effective by doing things away from the ball just like that.

Brooks is already seeing rapid improvement from Hachimura defensively.

"They have two guys that are incredible at shot fakes [Embiid and Al Horford], and we all know that he's had some problems with that early in the year. But the last couple of games, especially tonight, he has stayed down on all those shot fakes. So that's another growing area of his game on a defensive end," Brooks said.

Offensively, though, is where Hachimura is shining most so far. And after scoring 27 against the Sixers, he is now averaging 22 over his last four games while shooting 54.4 percent. His 14.1 points per game average on the season is fifth among rookies and his 5.7 rebounds per game are second. He also has the highest offensive rating (112.9) in his rookie class.

Hachimura has to learn to be more consistent, like most rookies, and especially on defense. But the potential for him to be a two-way player is certainly there, as he showed on Thursday night.

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