Giants play spoiler, knock Lions out of contention with OT win
Detroit, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - Josh Brown's 45-yard field goal midway through overtime officially knocked the fading Detroit Lions out of playoff contention, while lifting the New York Giants a 23-20 victory at Ford Field.
Brown hit three field goals in all for a Giants team that prevailed despite mustering just two first downs and 57 total yards in the second half.
New York (6-9) overcame its offensive woes by scoring 17 points off three Detroit turnovers, none bigger than Will Hill's 38-yard touchdown return off a Matt Stafford interception that tied the game at 20-20 with 4:57 left in regulation.
Stafford threw a pair of picks while putting up 222 yards on 25-of-42 passing in the loss, the fifth in six games for Detroit (7-8). The Lions blew a fourth-quarter lead in each of those setbacks.
"This is very disappointing," said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. "It's hard to take when every game is close. That's the thing that makes it difficult."
Eli Manning completed 23-of-42 throws for 256 yards with an interception and a touchdown to Jerrel Jernigan, who posted a career-high 80 yards on six catches filling in for an injured Victor Cruz.
"It's nice to win," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "That was a very, very nice ending for a bunch of guys that worked their butts off this week despite all that was being said about us."
Joique Bell was one bright spot in the Lions' latest frustrating defeat, tallying 154 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown that included a 10-catch, 63-yard effort.
Detroit bounced back from a sloppy first half, erasing a 13-3 deficit by putting up 17 straight points after the break, and appeared to be in control with the Giants failing to mount any threat on offense.
The game began to slip away with just under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, when Stafford's off-target pass bounced off Joseph Fauria's fingers and into the arms of Hill, who raced untouched down the right sideline to suddenly draw New York even.
After neither team mustered a credible scoring chance over the remainder of regulation, the Giants' offense came back to life in the extra session.
A Detroit three-and-out was followed by a pair of huge completions by Manning, one a 26-yard deep throw to Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-9 and the other a 15-yard bullet that Jernigan snared on 4th-and-7 to put the ball inside the Lions' 30 and allow Brown to come on for the deciding kick.
New York had built a 13-3 halftime advantage largely on the strength of its defense, which tallied a pair of second-quarter turnovers that led to 10 points.
Mathias Kiwanuka jarred the ball loose from Reggie Bush on the first of those takeaways, with Antrel Rolle taking the fumble to near midfield. A 14-yard catch by Andre Brown on 3rd-and-13 kept the drive alive, and Manning capped it shortly afterward with a 20-yard down-the-middle strike to Jernigan that gave the Giants a 10-3 lead with 2:19 remaining in the half.
Defensive end Justin Tuck then dropped into coverage to make a leaping grab of Stafford's attempt for Joseph Fauria, giving New York the ball back with 47 seconds left. Two Manning completions, one to Hakeem Nicks and another to Jernigan, put the Giants in position for Josh Brown to knock through a 52-yard field goal just prior to the break.
A big play on special teams enabled Detroit to close the gap early in the third quarter, with Jeremy Ross breaking free for a 50-yard punt return before being brought down at the New York 30. Bell later came up with a key 14-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-7 to bring about a 1st-and-goal, then powered in from a yard out two plays afterward to pull the Lions within 13-10.
The defense got in the act later on, as Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh converged on Manning in the end zone for a sack and safety that cut the deficit to one with 1:01 to go in the third quarter. Bell broke off a couple of sizeable runs following the change of possession, and Fauria's 9-yard third-down grab moved the chains to set up Theo Riddick's 1-yard run that sent Detroit in front.
Stafford hit Fauria on the ensuing 2-point try, putting the Lions up 20-13 with 11:50 left to play.
The Giants were able to move the ball effectively on their opening drive, marching 69 yards in 15 plays before settling for Josh Brown's 41-yard field goal after the trek stalled. Jernigan hauled in a pair of Manning passes that converted third downs to help put New York in scoring range.
Detroit countered with an extended series of its own, a 12-play, 63-yard sequence in which Stafford hit on 5-of-7 throws to set up David Akers' 37-yard field goal that knotted the score at 3-3 early in the second quarter.
Lions star wideout Calvin Johnson was held to 43 yards on three catches while dealing with a knee injury that rendered him a game-time decision ... Stafford has committed 14 turnovers, including 11 interceptions, during Detroit's 1-5 stretch ... Detroit played without cornerbacks Chris Houston (toe) and Rashean Mathis (illness), then lost replacement Bill Bentley to a possible concussion on Jernigan's TD catch ... Both Jernigan and Riddick scored their first career touchdowns ... The Giants improved to 3-0 all-time at Ford Field, which includes a 21-3 win over Minnesota in a 2010 game that was moved to Detroit when the Metrodome roof collapsed following a heavy snowstorm.
12/22 23:33:37 ET