JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The play is called “Rebound,” and Mike Thomas serves as “the scoop guy.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t even run it during practice. David Garrard always fakes the deep throw and teammates act out the results.
It never turns out like this.
Thomas hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Garrard that Houston cornerback Glover Quin batted into his hands on the final play in regulation, giving the Jaguars a 31-24 win over the Texans on Sunday.
“We definitely lucked out on that one,” running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. “Mike Thomas was in the right place at the right time.”
That might be the understatement of the year. Thomas, the team’s smallest player, made the biggest play of Jacksonville’s season.
“I think it was big for our confidence,” tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “We’re going to enjoy this.”
The game looked as if it was going to overtime, but Garrard heaved a pass toward the end zone with no time on the clock. Quin, who was burned all afternoon, tried to bat the ball to the ground. Instead, he knocked it right to the 5-foot-8 Thomas.
Thomas, who was trailing behind the pass and looking for a ricochet, caught it at the half-yard line and then stepped across the goal line for the winner. It was the fourth regular-season game in NFL history to end on a TD pass of 50 yards or more.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Thomas said. “You don’t expect that kind of play to go the way it’s supposed to go. I was shocked and a little stunned.”
The Jaguars (5-4) went into a frenzy and even drew a celebration penalty that couldn’t be enforced. The Texans (4-5) trudged off the field in disbelief. It was Houston’s third straight loss, dropping them from the top of the AFC South to the bottom.
“It’s a crazy play,” said Houston’s Andre Johnson, who had nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. “I don’t think any of their guys jumped up to try to catch the ball. You think about it, you’re snake-bitten because you don’t see that happen too often. They made the play and we didn’t.”
The Jaguars had a chance to take the lead in the closing minutes, but Josh Scobee yanked a 43-yard field goal left. It was his second miss of the game after making 14 in a row to start the season. Scobee missed a 39-yarder wide right on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Scobee’s late shank gave Houston a chance to win it, but the Texans needed to drive 67 yards in 1:34 with no timeouts. They moved the ball some and got close to field-goal range, but Joel Dreessen fumbled on a third-and-15 play.
At the time, it didn’t look like it would matter — certainly not with 8 seconds remaining. Had Dreessen maintained possession, it would have been fourth down. Houston couldn’t have spiked the ball to stop the clock and didn’t have enough time to get the field-goal unit lined up.
It turned out to be crucial, though.
Garrard found Lewis in the left flat for an 11-yard gain, then Houston’s Antonio Smith jumped offside. The extra 5 yards were big, too. So with 3 seconds remaining, Garrard dropped back, stepped up in the pocket and then threw high and deep from the Jacksonville 45-yard line. The pass was intended for Mike Sims-Walker, but the ball never quite reached him.
It ended up perfectly in Thomas’ hands, though.
“It’s just sad,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “We had a chance to win the game. … I’m just disappointed.”
Thomas finished with eight catches for 149 yards, both career highs. Garrard completed 24 of 31 passes for a career-high 342 yards and two scores. Jones-Drew had 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns — his first two-score game in more than a year.
The only thing any of them will remember is the final touchdown.
“I’m assuming we’re all going to the ESPYs this summer, play of the year,” Jones-Drew said. “I told Mike to book my ticket.”
The last-second heroics salvaged a game that looked like Jacksonville might blow. The Jaguars enjoyed their best half of the season and headed to the locker room with a 17-3 lead. They had 200 yards, 15 first downs, several big plays and some stifling defense in the opening 30 minutes.
But they couldn’t stop Matt Schaub and Johnson in the second half.
Schaub directed three 80-yard scoring drives in the second half, and the Texans tied it twice before the unlucky finish. Schaub threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns, and Johnson caught nine passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
The Texans tied it twice in the final 20 minutes. But the real craziness was saved for the final play.
“That’s what makes sports so great,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “It’s all right there on the line and dramatic moments, big huge pendulum swing one way or another. It sort of feels good when you make the play and you go home with a big smile.”
NOTES: The Jaguars have two wins on the final play this season. They beat Indianapolis 31-28 last month on Scobee’s career-long 59-yarder. … Garrard’s passer rating in his four wins this season is 143. … Lewis and backup TE Zach Miller combined for nine catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. … Dreessen, who was also flagged for a false start on Houston’s final drive, took the blame for the loss. “I had a penalty and a turnover in the two-minute drill, and that’s the reason our team lost.” … Houston’s Arian Foster, who entered as the NFL’s leading rusher, was held to 56 yards on 15 carries.