The New York Giants overcame a 17-point second-half scoring run that put them behind the Detroit Lions 20-13 thanks to a pick-six by safety Will Hill, which forced the game into overtime, and a 45-yard field goal by Josh Brown for the 23-20 win.
Hill, who was arrested Friday night due to a warrant related to child support, came up with the big play when he picked off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and returned the ball 38 yards with 5:06 left.
Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, whom Pro Football Focus ranked as the worst 4-3 defensive end in the NFL (subscription required) prior to this week’s game, recorded both of the Giants' sacks in what was his best showing of the season.
Justin Tuck, who appeared to be struggling at times in the second half with some sort of physical ailment, also came up with a big play when he tipped a pass and caught the rebound for an interception.
On offense, receiver Jerrel Jernigan, who saw his snaps increase thanks to the absence of Victor Cruz, put together another solid effort, leading the Giants in both receptions and receiving yards (six catches for 80 yards) for the second week in a row.
Jernigan also scored his first touchdown on a 20-yard pass from Eli Manning in the second quarter, and he made a big catch in overtime to set up Brown's game-winning field goal.
"I had a little in route, pretty much read the coverage, and when I came out I saw the linebacker, so I stopped and Eli saw me in that little hole," Jernigan said of his big catch in overtime.
"He threw a great ball to me," Jernigan said. "Either I was getting it or nobody else."
The win improves the Giants' record to 6-9 with one game remaining. The loss, meanwhile, eliminated the Lions from the postseason hunt.
"It’s huge," said defensive end Justin Tuck of the Giants' ability to bounce back from their second shutout of the year. "That’s why we play the game, whether we are playing to get into the playoffs or no."
"Every time you go on the football field, you to go out there and play your best and have a good feeling coming back into this locker room and celebrating with your teammates," Tuck said.
Let’s look at this week’s grades.
Eli Manning, who is now 3-0 against Detroit, continued to have trouble connecting with his receivers.
A large part of the problem is pass protection—a quarterback can’t make reads or step up into the pocket if his blockers are being walked back into his lap.
However, the quarterback has to take his share of the blame.
The Giants' most penalized player this season (login required) had another delay-of-game penalty, his fifth of the season, and he barely avoided at least two others.
Manning also made some poor reads, can’t seem to get any touch on his shorter passes and continues to overshoot his receivers in what’s been a season-long issue for him.
His interception gives him a new career high of 26, which, per Giants.com, is a new franchise record for a single season.
This was the 10th consecutive game in which Manning failed to throw for 300 yards, and the 10th game this season in which he failed to complete at least 60 percent of his passes.
Manning, who finished 23-of-42 for 256 yards, one touchdown and one interception, is at his best when he can throw to a spot and count on the receiver meeting the ball there. That hasn’t happened much this year, largely because of the offensive line’s inability to hold a block.
On the plus side, credit Manning for completing a 15-yard pass to Jerrel Jernigan into tight coverage on 4th-and-7 in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.
He also recorded his 25th career game-winning drive, which, as defined by the Elias Sports Bureau (h/t Giants.com), is "a victory in which a quarterback rallies his team from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie."
Unit Grade: C-
Finishing under 50 rushing yards for the second week in a row, the banged-up Giants running corps couldn’t get much of anything going to help the offense. To be fair, though, the team's run blocking has seen better days.
The result of their collective 41 yards on 21 carries was that the Giants ended up having to pass twice as much (42 times), which of course meant there was no chance of achieving the balance that head coach Tom Coughlin prefers.
Andre Brown recorded 40 of the rushing yards, but he also was credited with a lost fumble.
He added two receptions for 14 yards before having to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion.
Giants announce that Andre Brown has a concussion and will not return to the game.— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) December 23, 2013
Michael Cox received two carries, managing one yard. The carries were his first since Oct. 27 at Philadelphia and were a result of the Giants' dwindling running back corps, which was missing Peyton Hillis (concussion) this week and lost Brown to a concussion.
Tight end Bear Pascoe, in his first career carry from scrimmage, managed two rushing yards after Brown had to leave the game.
“The last time I carried the ball was back in the early 2000s and I was playing quarterback for Granite Hills (California) High School,” Pascoe told Michael Eisen of Giants.com. “We would run the triple veer, so that was the last time I carried the ball.”
Why did Pascoe get the carry? Newsday's Tom Rock got to the bottom of it:
Eli said he handed off to Pascoe because he wasn't sure Jernigan caught the low pass and he wanted to run a play quickly.— Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday) December 23, 2013
Fullback John Conner received 16 snaps, but with the Lions flooding the line of scrimmage to stop the run, he didn't have a lot of success.
Unit Grade: C
Brandon Myers’ blocking continues to be a problem as he simply doesn’t burst into his man or exhibit much force in imposing his will and driving defenders back.
Myers was called for holding in the second quarter against a defensive end when he was slow to get into his block and had to resort to grabbing the defender’s jersey.
The penalty was declined as running back Andre Brown had been thrown for a five-yard loss, which set up a 3rd-and-13 that the Giants converted.
On the plus side, Myers came up with a big 25-yard reception late in the fourth quarter, a play in which he initially looked like he was going to stay in to block, but then released into the seam to make the catch.
Bear Pascoe delivered a couple of nice seal blocks on the edge, including one that contributed to Andre Brown’s longest run of the game, an 11-yard dash around the left end.
Pascoe was also targeted twice in the passing game, coming up with one catch for seven yards.
Adrien Robinson, who was active for the first time this season, never made it onto the field with the offense because of a knee injury suffered on the opening kickoff.
Unit Grade: C+
Jerrel Jernigan, the third-year receiver, once again led his team in receptions and receiving yards, finishing with six catches for 80 yards and one touchdown.
Jernigan had a couple of catches worth a special mention. The first was a sideline reception in which he alertly dragged both feet in bounds before falling to the sideline.
The second was his first career touchdown, in which he alertly ducked as Lions defensive backs Bill Bentley and Louis Delmas converged.
Interestingly, Jernigan managed to have his big game despite being ill Saturday night.
Hakeem Nicks caught four of the seven passes thrown his way for 52 yards. Three of those receptions came in the first half.
Nicks was on the end of a couple of poorly thrown passes by Eli Manning, including one that might very well have gone for a touchdown.
Nicks did have a few gaffes. The first came after Justin Tuck intercepted Matthew Stafford late in the second quarter.
Instead of getting out of bounds, Nicks cut inside, which forced the Giants to burn a timeout.
Later in the game, he had a ball hit him in the hands only to bounce away, as it looked like he was trying to avoid being hit.
In the fourth quarter, he lost track of where he was along the sideline as he made a catch out of bounds, only to follow that one up a few plays after with a reception that was short of the first-down marker.
Rueben Randle came up with four of the nine balls sent his way for 40 yards. His biggest reception went for 26 yards in the overtime period, the catch converting a 3rd-and-9 at the Giants’ 29-yard line to set up the game-winning field goal.
Louis Murphy Jr. caught both passes thrown his way for 10 yards total, including a nice reception made in traffic.
Julian Talley, who made his NFL debut after being called up from the practice squad, had one snap on offense but was not a pass target.
Unit Grade: C+
The Giants’ patchwork offensive line put forth a rather encouraging performance against a tough Lions defense.
The final numbers? Two sacks for minus-15 yards, five quarterback hits and five tackles for a loss.
Will Beatty will probably be credited for both of the sacks allowed this week, though on the second of the two (the one resulting in a safety), he might not have been solely to blame.
On that play, Beatty appeared to have been held by a defensive lineman, which prohibited him from shedding his initial block to get the charging defender stunting inside.
Beatty also allowed some additional pressure as his technique continues to be inconsistent and, at times, sloppy.
Justin Pugh willed himself to win his battles, and he was successful when it came to pass blocking. He only appeared to give up one pressure when he was beaten by a wide rush.
James Brewer opened a few eyes by keeping defensive tackle Nick Fairley in check for the majority of the game as far as pass blocking went.
Brewer was also a key contributor in the Giants’ lone successful screen pass, showing fine athleticism in getting out into space.
Brandon Mosley was given the start at right guard. Going against Ndamukong Suh, Mosley battled hard and seemed to hold his own before breaking his right hand.
Mosley was relieved by Dallas Reynolds, who allowed some pressure and yet managed to hold Suh without a sack. In the run-blocking game, Reynolds looked to have some issues winning his battles against Suh.
Kevin Boothe’s play was mostly solid in pass blocking, as he correctly identified and helped his linemates handle the numerous defensive stunts coming from different directions.
As was the case for the entire line, Boothe had the occasional issue with sustaining blocks in the running game.
Unit Grade: C-
Finishing with six tackles, four of which were solo, Mathias Kiwanuka played his best game of the season, recording two sacks, two tackles for a loss, five quarterback hits, one pass breakup and one forced fumble.
Kiwanuka now has 6.0 sacks for the year, which is second behind Justin Tuck’s 9.0 sacks.
Speaking of Tuck, he didn’t have any sacks this week going against the rookie right side of the Lions offensive line, as his pass-rushing attempts were stopped on nearly every occasion.
He was credited for two tackles in the running game, a figure that was more of a result of the Lions trying to avoid running to his side of the field.
Tuck, who in the second half looked like he was fighting through some kind of injury, made a spectacular play.
Borrowing a page from teammate Jason Pierre-Paul’s book, he volleyed a Matthew Stafford pass into the air and then came down with the rebound.
Damontre Moore received a smattering of snaps at defensive end, managing just one tackle.
Moore is not quite the finished product when it comes to playing against the run, as he is still taking poor angles. However, he should improve in that area as he continues to get more practice and game reps.
Unit Grade: B+
The normally solid Giants run defense allowed 148 yards on 36 carries this week. That might have been more the result of the defensive game plan, which called for a heavy dose of three-safety sets in order to keep Calvin Johnson under control at the expense of selling out the run.
Cullen Jenkins continued to draw double-team blocks, managing one tackle this week. He also recorded one quarterback hit thanks to his determination and fighting through the blocks.
While not always apparent on every play, the fact that Jenkins draws so many double-team blocks actually helps free up others along the defensive line to make plays. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t; this season, it hasn’t happened enough.
Linval Joseph finished with four tackles, two solo, and played his assignments well. However, due to the defensive scheme, Joseph was part of a run defense that really wasn't ideally configured to stop the run as well as it has done in the past.
Mike Patterson (three tackles) and Detroit native Johnathan Hankins (one tackle) didn't get many snaps, but both flashed and flowed to the ball in order to attempt to limit the damage done on the ground.
Unit Grade: B-
Jon Beason once again led the Giants in tackles. This week, he accumulated 11 (six solo) by running down plays from sideline to sideline, with many of his tackles coming before the ball carrier could get to the second level.
Where Beason had his struggles was in coverage, where, for whatever the reason, he was often off the receiver and had to play catch-up. Still, give him credit for hustling out there even after being beaten to the reception.
Spencer Paysinger started the game, but because he didn't bring much to the party this week, he saw his snaps reduced in the second half.
Logging four tackles, Paysinger seemed to be a step too late to stop several running plays, and his coverage didn’t seem to be very effective, though he did manage to force a hurry with a blitz.
Jacquian Williams finished with five tackles, including one for a loss coming on a play in which he shot through a gap to drop running back Joique Bell for a two-yard loss.
In coverage, Williams seemed to be no match for tight end Joseph Fauria, who left Williams running around playing catch-up on nearly every matchup against him.
Keith Rivers and Mark Herzlich did not get any snaps on defense this week.
Unit Grade: C
As expected, Prince Amukamara was primarily assigned to cover Calvin Johnson.
Although Johnson was held to 43 yards on three catches, that might have been just as much due to his knee injury.
When squaring off against Johnson, Amukamara gave up too much cushion. As a result, Johnson was barely touched when having to get off the line of scrimmage.
Amukamara did come in a little closer on a second-quarter play in which he so tightly covered Johnson that the cornerback nearly came up with an interception.
Trumaine McBride had a few opportunities to intercept passes but fell short each time. He was primarily responsible for covering Kris Durham, and he held the receiver to 14 yards on two catches.
McBride also had coverage responsibilities against Kevin Ogletree.
On the receiver’s second reception, McBride, who has been battling a groin injury for a few weeks, pulled up lame and was eventually replaced by Jayron Hosley for three plays.
Terrell Thomas only had one snap on defense this week.
Unit Grade: B
Week in and week out, Antrel Rolle brings his A-game to the party. Finishing fourth on the team with six tackles, Rolle came up with a big fumble recovery in the second quarter when Lions running back Reggie Bush was stripped of the ball by defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.
Blocking the ensuing distraction from his Friday night arrest, Will Hill continued to be one of the best tacklers on this team and one of the most aggressive defenders. He finished third with nine tackles and had a pass breakup.
His biggest play, though, was his pick-six in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 20-20 and sent it into overtime.
Credit Hill for alertly getting into position and grabbing the tipped ball for the game-changing play.
"I just saw the ball take off in the air and just took advantage of the situation in Cover 4," Hill said. "I was overseeing three players, and once I saw the ball tip off his hands, I just saw daylight."
Ryan Mundy, who finished second on the team with 10 tackles, had a little bit of a shaky start to his day when he failed to stop Joique Bell on the Lions’ first third-down conversion attempt of the game.
Mundy, who took all the snaps on defense, also was a step too late in closing in on receiver Calvin Johnson, who also converted a third down with a 17-yard reception.
He did, however, make an impressive play to stop Bell on 3rd-and-1 late in the fourth quarter.
Overall, the play of the safeties was a big reason why no Lions receiver burned the Giants for more than 36 yards or for a receiving touchdown.
Unit Grade: A-
After putting together a couple of solid weeks, the special teams was back to being inconsistent.
Punter Steve Weatherford ran hot and cold with his directional kicking, though he wasn't helped by his coverage on Jeremy Ross’ 50-yard return. On that punt, Weatherford failed to get the ball outside of the hash marks.
Kicker Josh Brown hit all three of his field-goal attempts, each of which was at least 40 yards out, including the game-winner. He also had a solid showing on kickoffs, with two yielding two touchbacks and three nice, high kickoffs that Ross wasn’t able to get past the 20-yard line.
Brown's game-winning kick was the ninth in his career and his first since Dec. 23, 2012, when as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, he converted a 43-yard kick in a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Punt returner Rueben Randle managed 23 yards on three returns and called for three fair catches. Why he continues to be left on punt-return duty is a mystery, especially since he’s been seeing his reps increased. Perhaps in the regular-season finale, the coaches will give Charles James a look at that spot.
Kickoff returner Michael Cox broke one open for 56 yards at the start of overtime, thanks to blocks by linebackers Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich. However, the ensuing drive went nowhere thanks to Andre Brown's fumble.
Damontre Moore was the guilty party flagged for being offside on the Lions' 4th-and-1 toward the end of the first half.
The penalty yardage gave Detroit a first down, though Matthew Stafford ended the drive by throwing an interception to Justin Tuck.
Unit Grade: C-