Giants' OT win ends Lions' playoff hopes

Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- The New York Giants didn't quit on their season or their coach after all.
Consecutive 23-point losses by the Giants the past two weeks prompted critics to question their desire and effort. New York answered with a 23-20 overtime victory over reeling Detroit on Sunday at Ford Field, a result that knocked the Lions out of the playoff picture.
"They've taken a lot of shots this year and quite frankly have earned the criticism, I don't think there's any doubt about that," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "But we've been able to stay focused and take on some real deep values that get overlooked when people are telling you that you've got nothing to play for. You've got everything in the world to play for. The way they played tonight was a good demonstration of that."
Josh Brown kicked the game-winning 45-yard field goal with 7:32 remaining in overtime.
New York (6-9) forced overtime when safety Will Hill intercepted a deflected pass from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown with less than five minutes left in regulation.
"This gives you something positive to think back on this season," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "We've had some close games this season that we haven't won. We've been right there at the end and haven't been able to make the key plays to win the game. This time we did, and it's a good feeling."
Manning completed 23 of 42 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown despite going without his favorite target, wide receiver Victor Cruz, who underwent knee surgery earlier in the week.
New York wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan made his first career touchdown reception, a 20-yarder, late in the first half. He finished with six catches for 80 yards.
The Lions (7-8) lost their third game in a row, leaving them groping for answers to their late-season collapse. They appeared to be in control of the NFC North after blowing out the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day, but they couldn't quit their habit of self-destruction.
"Somebody's got to make the extra play for us to win the game," said defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who led the Lions' defense with a sack for a safety and a forced fumble. "We've just got to make one play. Every game, it seemed like we were one play away. Somebody's got to make a game-changing play. That's all it is, that's what separates the teams that make it to the playoffs."
Detroit running back Joique Bell gained 91 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown. He also caught 10 passes for 63 yards.
Stafford completed 25 of 42 passes for 222 yards but was intercepted twice and did not throw for a touchdown. Over the past five weeks, Stafford was intercepted 11 times and fumbled twice.
The Lions (7-8) blew a fourth-quarter lead for the fifth time in their past six losses. They fell 18-16 to the Ravens on Monday night when Baltimore's Justin Tucker kicked a decisive 61-yard field goal.
"It's just tough," said Detroit running back Reggie Bush, whose first-half fumble led to the Giants' first touchdown. "It's tough when you work so hard, especially for me being a part of the reason why we lost this game. It's tough, there's no other way to put it."
The teams combined for five turnovers, which was no surprise. The Giants lead the NFL with 41 turnovers, while the Lions are second on the list with 34 giveaways.
Michael Cox's 56-yard return of the overtime kickoff gave the Giants excellent field position, but Fairley forced a fumble from running back Andre Brown that defensive end Willie Young recovered on the Detroit 28.
After the Giants forced a punt, they gambled on fourth-and-7 at the Detroit 42. The decision paid off when Manning found Jernigan for a 15-yard completion. That led to Brown's game-winning kick.
"We were deep into overtime," Coughlin said of the fourth-down decision. "Guys had played a lot of plays, so let's see if we can make a play to put ourselves in position to end the game. And we did."
NOTES: Giants QB Eli Manning's 26 interceptions, including Sunday's fourth-quarter giveaway, are a franchise record. Manning shared the previous record of 25 with Charlie Conerly (1953) and Frank Filchock (1946) ... DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) and G David Diehl (knee) were inactive for New York. Diehl's replacement, Brandon Mosley, suffered a broken hand during the first quarter. ... The Lions played without starting CBs Chris Houston (toe) and Rashean Mathis (illness) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (ankle). Detroit CB Bill Bentley suffered a head injury during the second quarter and did not return. ... Detroit's most recent victory over the Giants was a 28-13 road win on Oct. 24, 2004.

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