EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt considered a quarterback change before sticking with the struggling Ryan Lindley.
The argument for a switch — as the New York Jets did with Mark Sanchez — was compelling during the Cardinals 7-6 loss on Sunday, their eighth straight defeat.
Lindley had a miserable game: 10 for 31 for only 72 yards, one interception and a dismal 28.0 quarterback rating.
"We talked about it," said Whisenhunt. "As the head coach, you have to make those decisions. You always do what you think gives you the best chance. That's what we did."
Whisenhunt deflected some of the blame from the quarterback to receivers running incorrect routes. In the final analysis, Lindley needed to make some plays for the Cardinals (4-8) to finally get a win.
"He's got to throw the ball better in situations than he did," Whisenhunt said.
"I missed some throws," he said. "You can't have that. They did a good job of covering some stuff, but there was stuff that was open. I didn't hit it."
In contrast, a quarterback change sparked the Jets.
It was an ugly performance by New York, until third-stringer Greg McElroy came in — not Tim Tebow — and made his case for taking over as the starting quarterback.
McElroy stepped in for a struggling Sanchez and energized the Jets. With Tebow inactive as he heals from two broken ribs, coach Rex Ryan pulled Sanchez for McElroy — as the crowd at MetLife Stadium cheered wildly — late in the third quarter.
"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 out to his right on a bootleg and tossing a 1-yard pass to a wide-open Jeff Cumberland in the back of the end zone 5 seconds into the fourth quarter.
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.
McElroy, reading the plays off his left wristband after getting few snaps in practice all week, was cheered with each completion, including a 13-yard toss on third down to Jeremy Kerley with 3 minutes left that helped seal the victory. McElroy finished 5 of 7 for 29 yards.
Sanchez left with 4:48 left in the third quarter and the Jets trailing 3-0 after having a pass batted down by Ronald Talley. Sanchez was met on the sideline by Ryan, who said something to his quarterback as McElroy began to warm up.
"From the get-go, from the first play, it just wasn't my day," Sanchez said.
It should make for an interesting week around Jets camp. If Tebow is healthy enough to play, he could be in line to start next week — at Jacksonville against his hometown Jaguars.
If not, Ryan will have to take a hard look at McElroy, a seventh-round pick out of Alabama last year who missed all last season with a thumb injury.
While the Jets' quarterback situation is unclear for the rest of this season, the sagging Cardinals have their own troubles at the position. Lindley was ineffective in his second NFL start. Arizona finished 0 for 15 in third-down situations.
Lindley was harassed by a Jets defense that was terrific in keeping the Cardinals out of the end zone, taking advantage of a rookie quarterback making his second NFL start, playing for Kevin Kolb who missed his sixth straight game with a rib injury.
On McElroy's second drive of the game, he completed a swing pass to Kahlil Bell, who fumbled the ball and Daryl Washington recovered deep in Jets territory.
Lindley connected with Michael Floyd on a 16-yard gain, but things stalled again for the Cardinals and they settled for Jay Feely's 35-yard field goal that made it 7-6 with 10:39 left.
The only scoring in the opening half came on Feely's 48-yarder as time expired. The 10-play drive was helped by a fake punt on fourth-and-7 from the Cardinals 25 when Rashad Johnson took the direct snap and zipped downfield 40 yards for the biggest play of the game to that point.
After two incompletions and a 5-yard toss to Rob Housler, Feely — an ex-Jet — came out and broke the scoreless "slugfest."
Things got started on an ominous note for the Jets as Sanchez was intercepted by Rhodes on New York's first offensive play of the game. Ryan criticized Rhodes in his book "Play Like You Mean It" last year for being a "selfish" player, and New York traded him after the 2009 season.
"There was no edge," said Rhodes, playing down a feud with Ryan. "It was my first opportunity to come back and play well in front of friends and family."
Arizona couldn't take advantage as the Cardinals went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 17 and Beanie Wells lost a yard.
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 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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