Capitals

McElroy, in for Sanchez, sparks Jets to 7-6 win

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McElroy, in for Sanchez, sparks Jets to 7-6 win

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Mark Sanchez's day was over, benched for the first time in his NFL career and his status as the New York Jets' starting quarterback suddenly uncertain.

Tim Tebow was expected to be the biggest threat to Sanchez's job. Turns out, it might be third-stringer Greg McElroy.

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 was fun,'' said McElroy, the team's seventh-round pick last year out of Alabama. ``We were having a good time. It was exciting to get a shot and go in there.''

Well, he might get another next week at Jacksonville.

Rex Ryan must decide this week whether he'll give Sanchez another shot as the Jets' starting quarterback, see what the team has in McElroy or go with Tebow, who could make his homecoming against the Jaguars if he's healthy enough.

``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.''

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 a badly struggling Sanchez for McElroy late in the third quarter - as the crowd at MetLife Stadium cheered wildly.

``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.'''

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.''

It was loud, Greg. Just ask your teammates.

``Well,'' safety Yeremiah Bell said, ``you can definitely tell that the stadium was happy about it.''

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.

``From the get-go, from the first play, it just wasn't my day,'' Sanchez said.

After being told by offensive coordinator Tony Sparano that his day was done, Sanchez went over to Ryan, who confirmed the decision, and then found McElroy.

``He just gave me a hug and said, `Go get `em,''' McElroy said.

And, he certainly did. 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).

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.''

Whisenhunt considered making his own quarterback change, but kept Lindley in.

``As the head coach, you have to make those decisions,'' Whisenhunt said. ``You always do what you think gives you the best chance. That's what we did.''

Jay Feely, another former Jet, accounted for all of the Cardinals scoring with a 48-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, and a 35-yarder that made it 7-6 with 10:39 left in the game.

``I am lost for words on that one,'' Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington said. ``I don't know where to go from here. You have just got to stay positive and hopefully we can get back to work and somehow get a victory.''

NOTES: 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 Rashad 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.

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How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

Everyone remembers Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-clinching overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. That goal now overshadows another series-clinching goal Kuznetsov had in 2015. In Game 7 against the New York Islanders, Kuznetsov scored what would prove to be the winning goal to break up a 1-1 tie. Clearly he knows how to get ready for a big game. His secret? Television.

Kuznetsov appeared on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Greatest Hits show on Monday to talk about his 2015 performance and the topic of the locker room came up. Both teams went into that game knowing their season was on the line and Kuznetsov was asked if the feeling was any different in the locker room before the game, a question he did not know exactly how to answer.

"I'm never in the locker room," Kuznetsov said. "I'm always by the TV watching TV shows."

Yes, when Kuznetsov arrives at the arena, he apparently likes to watch TV before the game and said he is not in the locker room until only about 30 minutes before warmups. He enjoys watching soccer, but also likes a good movie.

"It's usually soccer games," Kuznetsov said. "If it's not the soccer game, it's whatever the movie's going."

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He went on to say he was thankful for the team subscribing to whatever channel it was that he watches movies on.

If this seems odd to you, there is a method to the madness.

"Usually it's movie because that way I'm not thinking about hockey," Kuznetsov said. "I like to be loose before games."

Hey, if that's what he was doing before Game 7 in 2015 and before Game 6 in 2018, it's hard to argue against it.

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Where does a healthy John Wall rank among NBA's top 10 point guards?

Where does a healthy John Wall rank among NBA's top 10 point guards?

John Wall last played in an NBA game on December 26, 2018. He's expected to come back at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, and once he makes his long-awaited return to the Wizards' starting lineup, he'll find himself in a much different point guard landscape than the one he left. 

The position has changed, traditional point guards are mostly a thing of the past. NBA offenses are either run through multiple ball-handlers who can score and facilitate, or they're one-man shows centered around highly skilled individuals such as James Harden and Luka Doncic. 

Wall has consistently been one of the best in the league at his position, but after missing a year to an Achilles injury, it's hard to forecast where his game will be come next season. With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 point guards in the game (all presumed healthy), and see where Wall falls on the list. 

1. James Harden
2. Luka Doncic
3. Damian Lillard
4. Steph Curry
5. Chris Paul
6. Kyrie Irving
7. John Wall
8. Russell Westbrook
9. Kemba Walker
10. Kyle Lowry

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Wall has the talent to be in the top three of this list for sure, though it's difficult to put him anywhere but No. 7 right now. He's probably a tier above Walker and Lowry, while Wall and Westbrook are more comparable players. 

Irving, Curry and Lillard are too good and have been consistently great enough to where you can't put them below Wall, while Paul might be a great inspiration for players like Wall. Paul keeps getting older and keeps getting hurt but he's still so, so good. 

Then you have the two walking offensive systems in Doncic and Harden. Their production and what they do for their teams as primary ball-handlers is mostly unmatched across the eight players listed below them. 

Wall could rise all the way to the top of this list if he plays to his full abilities. The speed, perimeter defense, passing and dribble penetration made him an All-NBA level player. If Wall can improve his accuracy from beyond the arc, take more threes and fewer mid-range jumpers, I don't see why he can't see an uptick in efficiency even if his athleticism isn't what it used to be.

It's not a reach to say the Wizards' contention hopes depend heavily on whether Wall plays back to All-Star form or not. An Achilles injury is incredibly challenging to bounce back from, especially for a player like Wall whose game has had so much to do with speed and explosion in the past. 

The good news is he's had a chance to digest the game from a different perspective and time to fine-tune his jumper, while his Wizards teammates, especially Bradley Beal, are better than when he last suited up. 

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