JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- David Garrard stepped up in the pocket, heaved the ball high and long, then stared toward the end zone.
All he could see were bodies scattering and the ball getting tipped. The reaction of the crowd and his teammates cleared everything up.
Garrard quickly realized his "Hail Mary" pass landed in the arms of Mike Thomas, giving the Jacksonville Jaguars a 31-24 victory Sunday over Houston on one of the most improbable final plays in NFL history.
Garrard ripped off his helmet, fell to his knee and had to be helped up by guard Vince Manuwai.
"I thought I was going to explode right there," said Garrard, who completed his final 14 passes and threw for a career-high 342 yards.
Houston was even more stunned. In three plays, the Texans (4-5) went from potentially winning a close game to dealing with a heartbreaking loss. In three weeks, they went from the top of the AFC South to the bottom.
Can they recover? Their porous defense and daunting schedule - the next four games are against the New York Jets, Tennessee, Philadelphia and Baltimore - will make it tough.
Jacksonville became the latest team to shred the Texans. The Jaguars (5-4) ran early, threw late and pulled out a victory when their smallest player made the biggest play of the season.
Thomas hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Garrard that Houston cornerback Glover Quin batted into his hands. It was the fourth regular-season game in NFL history to end on a TD pass of 50 yards or more.
"We definitely lucked out on that one," said Maurice Jones-Drew, who had 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns. "Mike Thomas was in the right place at the right time."
The game looked as if it was going to overtime until Garrard's desperation pass 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 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 definitely a surprise," said Thomas, who finished with eight catches for a career-high 149 yards. "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 went into a frenzy and even drew a celebration penalty that couldn't be enforced. The Texans trudged off the field in disbelief after their third consecutive loss.
"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 got close to field-goal range, but Joel Dreessen fumbled on a third-and-15 play.
At the time, it didn't look as though it would matter - 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 Marcedes Lewis in the 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 took a shot deep.
The Jaguars call the play "Rebound," and Thomas serves as "the scoop guy." The Jaguars only practice it at walkthrough speed on Saturdays. Garrard fakes the deep throw and teammates act out the results. It never turns out the way it did against Houston.
"That's a bad way to lose," Quin said. "It's very devastating."