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Chargers sack Jets' McElroy 11 times in 27-17 win

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Chargers sack Jets' McElroy 11 times in 27-17 win

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) 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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Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

The Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal has rocked MLB and left a dark shadow over the league during offseason. Up until this point, despite a fired general manager and on-field manager, the players at the root of the scandal have remained silent on the subject and avoided questions from the media.

That will all change in Spring Training as the Astros players plan to make "a strong statement as a team," according to Astros' owner Jim Crane. 

"When we get down to Spring Training, we'll all get them together and they'll come out with a strong statement as a team and apologize for what happened and we'll move forward," Crane said in a media scrum.

Over the weekend the team held their annual winter FanFest where several players had to face the music as many players met with the media for the first time. Jose Altuve, who is one of the players who allegedly benefited from the sign-stealing, dodged the question as best he could. The Astros shortstop's comments coincide with Crane's, saying “I think the time to comment about that will come. It’s a little early for me to say something about it.” 

Outside of their FanFest event, there is little that has come out of the clubhouse. Their owner acknowledged the lack of communication from the players and said the players were advised to stay out of the conversation. 

"The players have been beaten up a little bit and they've been all spread out. They've just kinda getting [sic] advice to take it easy."

Already Spring Training in West Palm Beach is going to be awkward between the two teams that made the World Series last season. The Nationals, who won the World Series whether or not the Astros used their system to gain an advantage, have their facilities next door to Houston's.

And if the Astros sign former Nationals' manager Dusty Baker to the same position in wake of A.J. Hinch's firing, there will be even more tense situations at Spring Training this year. 

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Jay Gruden reportedly to join Jaguars as their offensive coordinator

Jay Gruden reportedly to join Jaguars as their offensive coordinator

Just four months shy of his last appearance on the NFL gridiron sidelines, Jay Gruden may already have his 2020 gig lined up, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.

Gruden was head coach of the Washington Redskins for six seasons, beginning in 2014 and going 35-49-1 in his burgundy and gold tenure. Gruden pushed the Redskins to their first postseason appearance since 2012 in his second year with the team, as well as back-to-back winning seasons in 2015 and 2016, not seen in Washington since 1996 and 1997. 

In March 2017, Gruden signed a two-year extension with the Redskins. He was fired after beginning the 2019 season 0-5. 

Recently, Gruden confirmed to Rapoport that he was "itching for something to do" and seeking employment before Jacksonville brought him in to interview for the OC role. 

After playing four years at the University of Louisville and and eight more in various football leagues, Gruden held many offensive roles, offensive coordinator for the Florida Tuskers and Cincinnati Bengals. 

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