Lions eliminated from playoffs after fifth loss in last six games
The Detroit Lions have been eliminated from the playoff picture with another late-season collapse that might also cost coach Jim Schwartz his job.
Sure, Josh Brown’s 45-yard field goal on the third drive of overtime lifted the New York Giants to a 23-20 win over Detroit on Sunday.
But the Lions (7-8) dropped themselves out of the NFC North race by losing five of their last six games, blowing fourth-quarter leads in each setback.
"We put ourselves in a bad, bad situation," linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "Unfortunately, we can’t dig ourselves out of it now."
Schwartz’s fate might have been sealed with the latest loss, his ninth straight in December or January.
"Speculation isn’t my job," he said. "Coaching is enough of a job for me."
The embattled coach chose to play for overtime by running out the clock with 23 seconds and two timeouts left from the Detroit 25. When the crowd reacted with a chorus of boos, Schwartz turned his head toward the stands and angrily shouted something.
Schwartz insisted he wasn’t responding to the fans.
"That’s a tough situation when your players are getting booed," he said. "You want to keep them fired up and that’s what I was trying to do."
Detroit needed some help to stay in postseason contention and got it when Pittsburgh won at Green Bay. The Packers’ loss turned out to be moot because the lowly Lions fell to put them out of the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 years.
The Giants (6-9) overcame Eli Manning’s interception late in regulation and Andre Brown’s fumble on the opening possession in overtime to win for the second time in five games.
With nothing to lose, New York went on fourth-and-7 from the Lions 42 and Manning connected with Jerrel Jernigan on a 15-yard pass to set up the winning kick.
Schwartz didn’t call a timeout that might’ve led to a video review that could’ve potentially overturned the low reception.
"I guess he made a catch," Manning said. "They called it a catch."
To avoid a potential review, the Giants quickly snapped the ball and gave tight end Bear Pascoe his first NFL rushing attempt.
"Had to make a few adjustments there," Manning recalled.
Manning was 23 of 42 for 256 yards with a TD pass to Jernigan — his first career score — and an NFL-high 26th interception.
Matthew Stafford was worse: 25 of 42 for 222 yards and two interceptions, the second was returned by Will Hill for a TD that tied it at 20 with 4:57 left in the lackluster game.
Stafford threw high and wide of 6-foot-7 tight end Joseph Fauria, who had to leap just to get his hands on the errant pass.
"We have had back-to-back heartbreakers at home with games decided by field goals," said Stafford, who was also lamenting last Monday night’s loss to Baltimore on Justin Tucker’s 61-yard kick in the final minute.
Calvin Johnson, questionable for the game because of an injured right knee, wasn’t the targeted receiver once after making three catches for 43 yards in the first half.
"His knee was bothering him, and his ankle was a problem," Schwartz said. "We were trying to use him in the red zone and on third downs, but he wasn’t close to 100 percent."
Stafford’s first interception and Reggie Bush’s career-high fourth fumble in the first half let the offensively challenged Giants take a 13-3 lead at halftime.
Manning’s 20-yard pass to Jernigan gave the Giants a 10-3 lead after Bush’s fumble. Jernigan, a third-year receiver, took advantage of more playing time with Victor Cruz out after having left knee surgery Thursday. Detroit cornerback Bill Bentley was beaten by Jernigan on the play and hit by safety Louis Delmas, who gave his teammate a concussion.
Brown’s season-long 52-yard field goal put New York ahead by double digits with 9 seconds left in the half. The kick came two snaps after Lions safety Don Carey got a delay-of-game penalty.
Detroit’s Jeremy Ross returned the first punt of the second half 50 yards to set up a 1-yard TD run by Joique Bell to make it 13-10.
Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley sacked Manning in the end zone to pull the Lions within a point late in the third quarter.
Detroit went ahead for the first time on the ensuing possession. Rookie running back Theo Riddick ran for a 2-yard TD and Fauria caught a pass for a 2-point conversion to give the Lions a 20-13 lead.
The Lions, though, blew it — and their chance to possibly win their first division title since 1993.
NOTES: Schwartz’s skid in December and January is at least twice as long as any other active streak and is the league’s longest since Herm Edwards (from 2007-08) and Jim Haslett (from 2005-08) both lost nine in a row during those months. … Giants guard David Diehl (knee) was inactive and his replacement, rookie Brandon Mosley, left with a broken hand in the first quarter.