A whopping 11 times.
That's a lot of bruises for the New York Jets' new—and sore—starting quarterback.
Led by Kendall Reyes' 3 1/2 sacks, the Chargers made things downright miserable for McElroy, tying the team record for sacks in a 27-17 victory Sunday.
"You don't do anything different, but you know it is going to be tougher for him because of his lack of experience," Reyes said. "You just want to get in his face."
That's exactly what San Diego did as Norv Turner awarded game balls to each one of his players that took McElroy down—and he sure needed a bunch of them. Shaun Phillips had 2 1/2 sacks, Corey Liuget added two more, and four other players helped the Chargers (6-9) finish one short of the NFL record set by a handful of teams, last by the Giants in 2007.
"A lot of those sacks weren't where they beat a guy quick and went," Turner said. "It was guys staying relentless and staying after the quarterback. You're playing a young quarterback. You'd like to be able to pressure him and disrupt it."
McElroy, the third-stringer, got the start for the Jets (6-9) in place of the benched Mark Sanchez. Rex Ryan announced after the game that McElroy will start in the season finale at Buffalo next Sunday.
He leapfrogged Tim Tebow on the depth chart, and the popular backup never took the field even though all three quarterbacks were active for the first time this season. Tebow also took no snaps in the team's wildcat package in which he is usually featured.
Tebow said "it just happened" that he didn't play in the package usually reserved for him, but ESPN New York reported that he actually asked out of running the wildcat earlier in the week because he was miffed he was passed over for the starting job, according to sources. The Jets used wide receiver Jeremy Kerley in the wildcat as Tebow remained on the sideline. Kerley completed a 42-yard pass to Clyde Gates out of the wildcat, and had a few other snaps out of the scheme.
"Well, it's been disappointing," Tebow said of the season. "Obviously, it didn't go as we thought, as I had hoped, but sometimes in life you have that. Sometimes you have setbacks and you just have to look at them as another opportunity for you to step back up and keep working and figure out what to do."
Meanwhile, with Turner and general manager A.J. Smith facing uncertain futures—and lots of speculation that they'll be out after the season—San Diego matched the team sacks mark set against Dallas in 1986.
"The game plan was definitely was to get pressure on him, sack him and make him nervous," Liuget said of McElroy, "and make them want to run the ball."
With a chance to get New York back into it with less than 5 minutes remaining, McElroy was taken down by Phillips—the Chargers' eighth sack of the game—and lost the ball. Phillips recovered and San Diego sealed the win, but not before sacking McElroy three more times.
"I'm disappointed," McElroy said. "This team's goal was to finish 8-8 and win the last two games and we're disappointed we're going to finish short of that goal."
McElroy, the team's seventh-round pick out of Alabama last year, became the first Jets quarterback to be sacked 11 times since David Norrie by Dallas in 1987, a game played by replacements.
"It was great on their part," said Ryan, guaranteed his first losing season as Jets coach, "but ridiculous on our part."
Philip Rivers threw touchdown tosses of 37 yards to Danario Alexander and 34 yards to Antonio Gates to lead the Chargers. It was the 82nd touchdown catch of Gates' career, snapping a tie with Lance Alworth for the franchise lead. After Gates caught his milestone touchdown, the entire offense celebrated with him in the end zone.
"There is no better feeling than to score and have 10 other guys run up to you and congratulate you," Gates said.
Rivers was a modest 11 of 22 for 165 yards, while McElroy finished 14 of 24 for 185 yards with an interception and the lost fumble. Both offenses struggled, though, as San Diego went 2 of 12 on third downs, while New York was 2 of 11. But the Chargers' defense bailed out Rivers and the offense.
"That's awesome," Rivers said. "It was certainly fun to watch them when they're rolling like that."
Micheal Spurlock took a punt 63 yards for a touchdown to put the Chargers up 7-0 just under 2 minutes into the game. It was the first punt returned against the Jets for a touchdown since Oakland's Phillip Buchanon took one 78 yards in 2003—a span of 150 games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
The Jets came right back, though, with two 1-yard touchdown runs by Shonn Greene to take a 14-7 lead.
The Chargers opened the second half with a 37-yard touchdown catch by Alexander that gave San Diego a 17-14 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
"Offensively, you're not beating anybody when you play like that," Ryan said. "It's just hard to put into words. You get sacked 11 times, it's extremely frustrating. I expected a lot better, but that never happened."
NOTES: The Jets held a moment of silence before the game for the victims of the Connecticut shootings last Friday, and had banners on the sidelines that read "S.H.E.S" for Sandy Hook Elementary School. ... Chargers rookie S Brandon Taylor was carted off the field in the third quarter after injuring his right knee. Jets DB Ellis Lankster left in the second half with a concussion.