Jets fall to Chargers in McElroy's starting debut
East Rutherford, NJ (Sports Network) - Philip Rivers tossed a pair of touchdown passes on Sunday, as the San Diego Chargers spoiled Jets quarterback Greg McElroy's first NFL start with a 27-17 triumph over New York at MetLife Stadium.
Rivers completed 11-of-22 passes for 165 yards and Micheal Spurlock added a 63-yard punt return touchdown for the Chargers (6-9), who have won two of their last three.
New York coach Rex Ryan named McElroy the starter earlier this week after Mark Sanchez turned the ball over five times in a 14-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans that eliminated the Jets (6-9) from playoff contention this past Monday.
"I have to do a better job," McElroy admitted. "We learned a lot today. Everyone is very disappointed. We understand we need to improve."
The second-year signal-caller finished 14-of-24 for 185 yards with an interception and a fumble lost and was sacked 11 times in the setback, New York's second in a row.
"Obviously that was great on their part and ridiculous on our part," Ryan said of the Chargers racking up 11 sacks. "Offensively, you aren't beating any body if you play like that. It's as simply as that."
Shonn Greene carried the ball 14 times for 38 yards and two scores in the loss.
McElroy's first series under center got off to a rocky start, as he was sacked for a 9-yard loss on 3rd-and-9 to force the Jets to punt the ball away.
Spurlock fielded the ensuing kick at his own 37 and made a defender miss near midfield before scampering down the left sideline for a 63-yard punt return touchdown to give the Chargers a 7-0 edge less than two minutes in.
McElroy looked much more comfortable on the Jets' second touch, as he found Greene for 30 yards out of the backfield before Jeremy Kerley took a snap out of the wildcat formation and hit Clyde Gates for 42 yards to the San Diego 11.
McElroy then scrambled for seven yards down to the goal line on 3rd-and-7 and two plays later Greene punched it in from a yard out to knot the game at 7-7 with 9:20 left in the first.
A quick three-and-out gave the ball back to New York and a 20-yard punt return from Kerley set the Jets up at their own 42.
Greene ripped off a 12-yard rush on the next play before McElroy rifled a 13- yard strike to Braylon Edwards down to the San Diego 26.
A pass interference penalty in the end zone on 3rd-and-7 put the ball on the 1-yard line and two plays later Greene plowed across the goal line to give the Jets a 14-7 edge with 4:13 left in the first.
After the teams exchanged three-and-outs, Rivers converted a 4th-and-2 with an 18-yard toss to Danario Alexander to the New York 16, but back-to-back holding penalties handcuffed the drive and the Chargers were forced to settle for a 51-yard field goal from Nick Novak to pull within 14-10 with 8:32 left.
Neither offense managed much over the latter stages of the half and the Jets carried their four-point edge into the locker room.
Rivers opened the second half with consecutive completions before finding Antonio Gates for 10 yards on 3rd-and-6 down to the New York 40.
Facing 3rd-and-7 three plays later, Rivers found Alexander deep down the left sideline for a 37-yard touchdown to put the Chargers in front, 17-14, with 11:11 left in the third.
New York went three-and-out on its next two touches before Spurlock returned a punt 21 yards to the Jets' 38.
A defensive holding penalty on 3rd-and-17 kept the possession alive and Rivers took advantage two plays later, as he found Gates for a 34-yard touchdown to make it a 24-14 game with 1:34 left in the fourth.
The Jets gave the ball right back on the fourth play of their ensuing touch, as Corey Lynch stepped in front of a McElroy pass and returned it 30 yards to the New York 19.
San Diego turned the interception into points when Novak nailed a 27-yard field goal, but a 46-yard kickoff return from Joe McKnight helped the Jets respond with a field goal of their own, as Nick Folk buried a 40-yarder to make it a 27-17 game with 11:08 remaining.
The Chargers chewed up nearly five minutes of clock on their ensuing touch before punting the ball back to the Jets.
New York made its way across midfield on the possession, but McElroy was sacked and stripped at the New York 47 by Shaun Phillips, who pounced on the loose ball at the New York 44.
The Jets regained possession after a San Diego three-and-out, but McElroy was sacked on three straight plays to turn the ball over on downs and allow Rivers to kneel down three times to run out the clock.
Despite the win, the Chargers will finish with their first losing record since going 4-12 under Marty Schottenheimer in 2003 ... The Chargers lead the all- time series, 20-12-1 ... New York quarterback Tim Tebow was active for the game but did not play ... Gates (82) is now in sole possession of first place for most touchdown catches in franchise history ... San Diego's 11 sacks were the most in a single game since 1986 against the Dallas Cowboys.
12/23 20:14:14 ET