DETROIT -- Eli Manning wanted another chance at a first down -- and coach Tom Coughlin figured this game had gone on long enough.
The New York Giants were either going to convert on fourth-and-7 -- and probably win -- or they were going to give Detroit good field position in overtime.
"We decided to go for it," Coughlin said. "Guys had played a lot of plays. Let’s see if we can make a play to put ourselves in a position to end the game -- and we did."
Manning’s 15-yard pass to Jerrel Jernigan set up Josh Brown’s 45-yard field goal that gave the Giants a 23-20 victory over Detroit on Sunday, eliminating the Lions from playoff contention.
New York won despite being dominated for most of the second half -- the Giants were able to force overtime when Will Hill tied the game at 20 on an interception return with 4:57 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Giants (6-9) fumbled the ball away on the first possession of overtime, but they stopped Detroit and then drove 45 yards to set up the winning kick. It was a crushing loss for the Lions (7-8) and a gratifying victory for a New York team that has won six of nine since an 0-6 start.
"Good character, tough kids," Coughlin said. "Taken a lot of shots this year -- quite frankly, have earned the criticism, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
"But we’ve been able to stay focused and we’ve been able to touch on some real deep values that get overlooked when people are telling you you’ve got nothing to play for. You’ve got everything in the world to play for."
That’s not to say the Giants played all that well. They led 13-3 at halftime, then went almost the entire second half without a first down.
But Hill’s 38-yard interception return tied the game, and although Manning was intercepted in the final minute of the fourth quarter, the Giants were able to win in overtime.
Andre Brown’s fumble in Detroit territory on the opening possession in overtime gave the Lions a chance to win it, but they couldn’t move the ball and had to punt.
Manning threw a 26-yard pass to Rueben Randle on third-and-9. Moments later, New York went for it on fourth-and-7 from the Detroit 42.
After Manning connected with Jernigan for a first down, the Giants made sure the catch wouldn’t be reviewed by rushing to get the next play off. It ended up being a 2-yard run by Bear Pascoe -- the first rushing attempt of the tight end’s career.
"Jernigan went down and made a great catch," Manning said. "Or, I think -- I don’t know. I guess he made a catch. They called it a catch."
Manning was 23 of 42 for 256 yards and a touchdown. He clearly wanted to stay out on the field and go for it on that crucial fourth down.
"He was standing there, didn’t want to come off," Coughlin said. "I’d say that’s about as close to lobbying as he gets."
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford was 25 of 42 for 222 yards and two interceptions, the second of which was returned by Hill for the touchdown that gave the Giants new life.
"Even when the offense is doing good, as a defense we always say we have to get two turnovers," Hill said. "We are always out there saying, ‘We have to get a turnover, we have to get a turnover.’ It just happened to be me today."
Detroit turned the ball over three times and lost for the fifth time in six games. The Lions led all of those games in the fourth quarter.
"It’s one of those things that’s going to hurt as time goes on," wide receiver Nate Burleson said. "This is going to be right up there with the most difficult losses of the season. Just have to deal with it."
Manning’s 20-yard scoring pass to Jernigan gave the Giants a 10-3 lead. Jernigan, a third-year receiver, took advantage of more playing time with Victor Cruz out following left knee surgery.
Brown’s 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 that moved the Giants closer.
Detroit’s Jeremy Ross returned the first punt of the second half 50 yards to help set up a 1-yard TD run by Joique Bell that made 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 a 2-point conversion gave the Lions a 20-13 lead.