EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — With his team trailing by 11 points and the season on the brink, coach Tom Coughlin wasn’t the only voice in the New York Giants’ locker room at halftime.
The one that stood out was Justin Tuck, and his message was simple: Stop playing like garbage.
The Giants (7-4) got the message and maybe saved their season with five games to go.
Eli Manning threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss with 3:15 to play and Tuck and his buddies sacked David Garrard on three straight plays in the closing minute and forced a turnover as the Giants rallied to beat Jacksonville 24-20 on Sunday. The win snapped a two-game slide and ending the Jaguars’ three-game winning streak.
“I talked about how you allow somebody to come into your house and take over,” Tuck said after the Jaguars had taken a 17-6 halftime lead. “At that point, they were doing just about whatever they wanted to do. We couldn’t allow ourselves not to be on the same page.”
“I told them I was playing like garbage,” Tuck added. “I told them we were playing like garbage. In the second half, we’ve got to pick it up. I just tried to create a spark, and it worked.”
The Giants held the Jaguars (6-5) to three points, 92 yards in total offense and forced two turnovers, with Antrel Rolle’s fumble recovery with 1:25 left icing the game.
“That was something that we needed,” Coughlin said. “We needed to rise up and have a finish like that. We’re all aware of the circumstances that we’re in, that the division is in, that the conference is in, and we needed to keep pace.”
Jacksonville took a 20-17 lead on 42-yard field goal by Josh Scobee with 8:26 to play and the Giants finally took the lead with a six-play, 69-yard drive that featured an 18-yard pass to Mario Manningham and an 18-yard run by Brandon Jacobs, who gained 87 yards on 14 carries in his return to the starting lineup.
Faced with a third-and-10 at the Jaguars 32, Manning (14-of-24 for 226) and Boss caught Jacksonville in a blitz.
“He saw it,” Manning said of Boss. “He went up the field looking for the ball and I got it to him.”
Boss caught the ball at the 25, shook off a tackle by safety Courtney Greene and romped into the end zone.
“He almost brought me down,” said Boss, whose holding penalty cost the Giants a first-half touchdown. “I was kind of fumbling and stumbling to keep my feet and get in the end zone.”
Greene took the blame.
“I just missed the tackle,” said Greene, who led the Jaguars with 11 tackles.
Manning also threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Manningham and Lawrence Tynes kicked three field goals. Manning’s late heroics also helped big brother Peyton in the AFC South race with Jacksonville — the Colts and Jaguars began the day tied for the division lead.
Garrard and Rashad Jennings ran for touchdowns and Scobee kicked two field goal as the Jaguars lost for only the third time in eight games.
“This is a team that’s been in Super Bowls and been in a lot of playoff runs, so we can’t let up on a team like that,” Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “It’s a sign of maturity. We have a lot of growing up to do all across the board.”
Jacksonville had one last chance and Garrard drove the Jaguars from their 27 to the Giants 29, where they got a first down on an illegal contact penalty against Aaron Ross with 1:51 to play.
Tuck and Antrel Rolle sacked Garrard for an 11-yard loss on first down. Dave Tollefson tackle Garrard for a loss of 5 more on second down. Cornerback Terrell Thomas, who intercepted Garrard’s first pass of the second half to set up Tynes’ third field goal, then sacked the quarterback and forced a fumble that Rolle recovered.
“If you don’t execute and let a team stay in the game, that’s what going to happen, you’re going to end up losing out there,” Garrard said as he waited to be X-rayed. “That’s two or three weeks in a row we’ve left teams back in where we had a chance to end the game.”
The Giants tied it early in the fourth quarter on the touchdown pass to Manningham and a 2-point conversion run by Ahmad Bradshaw.
Garrard (20-of-35 for 162) used runs of 6, 6 and 11 yards to set up Scobee’s go-ahead 42-yard field goal.
Garrard and the Jaguars were outstanding in the first half, scoring on drives on 75, 85 and 71 yards the first three times they had the ball.
Jennings capped the Jaguars’ opening drive with a 5-yard run. Garrard hits passes of 12 and 16 yards on a 15-play drive that Scobee ended with a 22-yard field goal for a 10-3 lead.
The Giants appeared to tie the game on a 9-yard pass from Manning to Manningham on their next possession, but the score was nullified by a holding penalty against Boss. Tynes, who kicked a 22-yard field goal after New York’s opening drive stalled at the Jags 5, added a 29-yarder.
Garrard then led a 13-play, 71-yard scoring drive he capped with a sensational 5-yard run on which he avoided a sack by Osi Umenyiora and broke a tackle by Tuck in going from sideline to sideline for the TD.
Notes: Will Beatty started at left tackle for Giants with Shawn Andrews out with back injury. … Former Giant Guy Whimper started at left tackle for Jacksonville with Eugene Monroe out with a concussion. … Mike Sims-Walker, who battled an ankle injury all week, had 10 catches for 48 yards. … The Giants finished with four sacks. … Jacksonville lost despite having the ball for 35:27 .