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Third-stringer McElroy drives Jets to victory over Cardinals

  • New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy (14) runs with the ball as Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Paris Lenon (51) and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (54) defend during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won 7-6. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy (14) runs with the ball as Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Paris Lenon (51) and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (54) defend during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won 7-6. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy (14) runs with the ball as Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Paris Lenon (51) and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (54) defend during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won 7-6. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy (14) runs with the ball as Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Paris Lenon (51) and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (54) defend during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won 7-6. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

  • New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy (14) runs with the ball as Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Paris Lenon (51) and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (54) defend during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won 7-6. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
  • New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy (14) runs with the ball as Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Paris Lenon (51) and outside linebacker Quentin Groves (54) defend during the second half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Jets won 7-6. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Third-stringer Greg McElroy stepped in for a struggling Mark Sanchez and led the New York Jets to their only score, and a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, 7-6, yesterday.

With Tim 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. McElroy led the (5-7) Jets to their only points of the day with an impressive drive, connecting with Jeff Cumberland on a 1-yard touchdown. That ended up being the winning score.

Fans chanted “Mc-El-roy!” throughout the first three quarters as Sanchez went 10-for-21 for 97 yards and three interceptions.

The sagging Cardinals (4-8) have their own troubles at quarterback. Ryan Lindley was ineffective in his second NFL start as Arizona lost its eighth straight game after a 4-0 start.

TEXANS 24, TITANS 10

Houston clinched its second straight playoff berth and set a franchise record for wins in a season.

Rookie linebacker Whitney Mercilus recovered a fumble and had two sacks, and the Texans (11-1) remain tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NFL with their sixth straight win. After needing overtime the past two games, the Texans forced six turnovers and had six sacks of Jake Locker when they weren’t batting down a handful of other passes.

The Texans swept Tennessee (4-8), the team they replaced in Houston, for only the second time. Matt Schaub threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns, and Arian Foster ran for a TD.

BRONCOS 31, BUCCANEERS 23

Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns, including one to defensive tackle Mitch Unrein, to help Denver wrap up the AFC West.

The Broncos (9-3) won their seventh straight and the Tampa Bay (6-6) loss clinched the NFC South for Atlanta, which won on Thursday.

Manning threw for 242 yards. He now has 29 touchdown passes this season, moving past Jake Plummer and John Elway for the most by a Denver quarterback in a single year.

Manning threw two of the scores to Demaryius Thomas, who finished with eight catches for 99 yards.

Broncos linebacker Von Miller returned an interception for his first NFL score.

The Broncos held Tampa running back Doug Martin to 56 yards on 18 carries.

RAMS 16, 49ERS 13, OT

Rookie Greg Zuerlein kicked a 54-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in overtime after booting a 53-yarder as time expired in regulation.

The winning kick allowed the Rams to avoid a second tie in three weeks against the NFC West leaders.

The Rams (5-6-1) scored twice in the final 3:04 of regulation, getting their lone touchdown when rookie Janoris Jenkins returned an errant pitchout by Colin Kaepernick 2 yards for a score. They’ve won two straight after an 0-4-1 skid.

The 49ers (8-3-1) failed to take advantage of a 14-yard punt by rookie punter Johnny Hekker to midfield when David Akers was barely wide right on a 51-yard attempt with 4:11 to go in overtime. Akers is just 7-for-15 from 40 yards and beyond.

SEAHAWKS 23, BEARS 17, OT

Russell Wilson connected with Sidney Rice on a 13-yard touchdown with 7:33 left in overtime to lift Seattle.

Unbeaten in five home games, the Seahawks finally figured a way to win on the road after dropping five of their first six, and knocked off the NFC North leaders in the process.

Seattle took a short-lived lead late in regulation on Wilson’s 14-yard pass to Golden Tate, only to watch the Bears’ Robbie Gould boot a 46-yard field goal as time expired to send it into OT.

The Seahawks (7-5) got their only other road win at Carolina.

COLTS 35, LIONS 33

Andrew Luck threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery with no time left to lift Indianapolis.

With the final seconds ticking away, the rookie quarterback moved up in the pocket, flipped a short pass to Avery, and the receiver ran untouched into the end zone to complete a rally that started with Lions up 12 points midway through the fourth quarter.

The Colts (8-4) stayed in control of the AFC wild-card race with the win. Detroit (4-8) lost for the fourth straight time, including three in a row at home after leading in the final quarter.

PACKERS 23, VIKINGS 14

James Starks had Green Bay’s first rushing touchdown in almost two months, Morgan Burnett picked off Christian Ponder twice and the Packers overcame a monster day by Adrian Peterson.

Peterson finished with 210 yards, the most he’s had since blowing out his ACL and MCL last December. But the Vikings (6-6) clearly felt the absence of Percy Harvin, who missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle.

Ponder didn’t help matters with his interceptions, one in the end zone and the other around the Green Bay 10. The Packers turned both miscues into field goals, giving them their 10th straight victory against an NFC North opponent.

The win also keeps the Packers’ hopes for the (8-4) division title alive.

STEELERS 23, RAVENS 20

Shaun Suisham kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired to lift Pittsburgh.

Playing without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a third straight week, the Steelers turned to 37-year-old Charlie Batch for the second game in a row. He went 25-for-36 for 276 yards, threw a touchdown and moved the Steelers 61 yards before Suisham’s game-winning kick.

Pittsburgh trailed 13-3 in the first half and 20-13 in the fourth quarter before coming back.

Pittsburgh (7-5) snapped a two-game losing streak and kept alive its slim hopes of overtaking Baltimore (9-3) in the AFC North. The teams have split their games this season.

The Ravens could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory. Instead, Baltimore had its 15-game home winning streak snapped and also lost for the first time in 13 games against division foes.

BENGALS 20, CHARGERS 13

Andy Dalton scrambled up the middle for a 6-yard touchdown with 4:11 left for the go-ahead score and Cincinnati won its fourth straight game.

On second-and-goal, Dalton pump-faked right and then ran up the middle, dived for the end zone and got the ball across.

The Bengals (7-5) remained tied with Pittsburgh in the race for the AFC’s second wild-card berth.

The Chargers (4-8) lost their fourth straight game and for the seventh time in eight games, and remain only mathematically alive in the wild-card chase. Denver won the AFC West with a 31-23 victory against Tampa Bay.

BROWNS 20, RAIDERS 17

Brandon Weeden threw for a career-high 364 yards and a touchdown as Cleveland snapped a 12-game road losing streak.

Weeden hit fellow rookie Josh Gordon on a 44-yard score in the second quarter and Trent Richardson scored on a 3-yard run after Sheldon Brown made a key interception deep in Cleveland territory when the Raiders (3-9) were driving for the potential tying or go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.

It all added up to the first road win for the Browns (4-8) since beating Indianapolis 27-19 on Sept. 18, 2011.

BILLS 34, JAGUARS 18

Ryan Fitzpatrick directed five straight scoring drives in helping Buffalo keep alive its slim playoff hopes.

Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and scored on a 1-yard plunge in providing a spark to an injury-depleted offense that finished the game minus its top two receivers.

Fred Jackson had 101 yards rushing and C.J. Spiller scored on a 44-yard run that put Buffalo (5-7) up 34-10 early in the fourth quarter.

The Jaguars fell to 2-10.

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