Greg McElroy energizes Jets teammates

Jets quarterback Greg McElroy gestures during the second

Jets quarterback Greg McElroy gestures during the second half of a game against the Arizona Cardinals. (Dec. 2, 2012) (Credit: AP)

It was easy to tell how the fans felt about the Jets' third-quarter switch of quarterbacks Sunday. "You have two ears," Brandon Moore said of the thunderous applause when Rex Ryan replaced Mark Sanchez with Greg McElroy.

The Jets seemed to get some energy from the change, though no one wanted to admit it in a rather mellow victorious locker room after the 7-6 win over the hapless Cardinals.

"Greg's a pretty confident kid, borderline cocky," Moore said. "But you kind of like that in your quarterback. Guys understood [the situation] and we wanted to rally around him. The huddle got tighter. It's a young guy coming, first time playing -- we wanted to help him as best we could."

"We started breaking down the walls. It just happened that was the time the wall broke and we could run the ball," guard Matt Slauson said of McElroy's first drive, which ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland. "Our job isn't to answer quarterback questions. It's to go out there and block and play and win."

Even on the defensive side of the ball, there was an awareness of what was happening on the sideline after Sanchez dragged himself off the field following another failed series in the third quarter.

"You could definitely tell the stadium was happy about it," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "We knew if we kept playing good defense, we would give ourselves a chance to win."

"It's not like he's been taking reps during practice, so to come in and play the way he did is so encouraging," Mike DeVito said. "Times like that, they happen. [It was a] tough decision, but it was the one that was right for the team."

The quarterback controversy was fodder even for the visitors, one former Jet in particular.

"He's in a situation where everyone is against him," said Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes, who picked off Sanchez twice in the first quarter. "I talked to him during the game and I just told him to keep his head up. When you play here in New York, they're very demanding of you. The fans have been calling for his head for a few weeks now. I guess they decided to pull the trigger."

As for who will start next week, the Jets are determined to leave that up to Ryan.

"I like both guys. They both work hard," running back Bilal Powell said. "At the end of the day, that's not my decision. We got a win today."

"We all have Mark's back. We have McElroy's back," Antonio Cromartie said. "The decision the coach made was based on his decision. Everybody asks me that and obviously you have to ask Rex those questions. We're going to be behind any decision he makes."

There were plenty of Jets trying to keep Sanchez's spirits up after the benching. "I just told him, 'You're still the man,' " receiver Jeremy Kerley said. "Just trying to lift his spirits a little."

The Jets know they still have a huge hill to climb at 5-7, so worrying about feelings is secondary for now.

"He's a tough-minded kid," Moore said of Sanchez. "He's been through some tough times here. I'm sure he'll figure out a way to get through this."

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