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.