After squandering an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars fought back with a late comeback of their own to edge the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-29, in a wild AFC wild-card game at Heinz Field.
Garrard, the Jaguars' thick 245-pound leader, carried the team in the end, scrambling for 32 yards to convert a fourth-and-two and set up the game-winning field goal.
"It clearly exemplifies the resolve this team has played with all season," said Del Rio, who becomes the first from Brian Billick's coaching tree to earn a playoff win. "To be able to advance in this playoff tournament, you have to make plays to close out teams. Ultimately, we made enough to win."
Jacksonville became the first team to win twice in the same season at Pittsburgh in the Steelers' 75-year history.
The Jaguars' next game could have a more historic story line. Unless the Tennessee Titans upset the San Diego Chargers today, Jacksonville will play at the undefeated New England Patriots on Saturday.
Like the Ravens a season ago, the Steelers failed to win a playoff game after capturing the AFC North.
"We knew our backs were against the wall on that final drive," said Jacksonville offensive tackle Tony Pashos, who started for the Ravens last season. "I think from the coaching staff to the players in the huddle, that we believe in each other. We all knew we had to keep fighting."
After Miller's touchdown, it looked as if Pittsburgh had closed to within a field goal when Roethlisberger found Hines Ward on the two-point conversion. But a holding penalty on center Sean Mahan negated it, and Roethlisberger failed to reach the end zone on a scramble.
Pittsburgh drove to the Jacksonville 1-yard line, where the Steelers got a debatable call. On fourth-and-goal, Jaguars cornerback Brian Williams was called for pass interference when it was Ward who held Williams' face mask while jostling off the line of scrimmage.
Given a first down with the penalty, Najeh Davenport scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Steelers ahead 29-28 and give them their first lead since the first quarter. But that wasn't enough.
Jacksonville rebounded by driving 44 yards in seven plays, but none was greater than Garrard's run.
With fourth-and-two at the Steelers' 43, Garrard took the shotgun snap and knew the play call was for him to run despite Pittsburgh rushing nine defenders.
Finding a lane up the middle of the defense, Garrard faked out safety Tyrone Carter and raced to the Steelers' 11.
"David has played big for us all season," Del Rio said. "That's what you expect out of your leader."
With its quick start and late rally, Jacksonville advances in the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.
"There's a lot of smiles in that locker room," Del Rio said. "But regardless of how it turns out, we know we will have one heck of a challenge ahead."
Jacksonville 7 14 7 3-31
Pittsburgh 7 0 3 19-29
First quarter Pit-Davenport 1 run (Reed kick), 10:03. Jac-F.Taylor 1 run (Scobee kick), 9:39.
Second quarter Jac-Mathis 63 interception return (Scobee kick), 10:19. Jac-Jones-Drew 43 pass from Garrard (Scobee kick), 8:34.
Third quarter Pit-FG Reed 28, 9:24. Jac-Jones-Drew 10 run (Scobee kick), 4:39.
Fourth quarter Pit-Holmes 37 pass from Roethlisberger (Reed kick), 14:53. Pit-Miller 14 pass from Roethlisberger (run failed), 10:25. Pit-Davenport 1 run (pass failed), 6:21. Jac-FG Scobee 25, :37. A-63,629.
First downs 14 24
Total Net Yards 239 340
Rushes-yards 29-135 26-43
Passing 104 297
Punt Returns 3-31 1-8
Kickoff Returns 6-140 5-83
Interceptions Ret. 3-67 2-33
Comp-Att-Int 9-21-2 29-42-3
Sacked-Yards Lost 4-36 6-40
Punts 4-50.0 4-44.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-40 5-50
Time of Possession 27:01 32:59 Rushing-Jacksonville, Garrard 5-58, F.Taylor 16-48, Jones-Drew 8-29. Pittsburgh, Davenport 16-25, Roethlisberger 4-13, Davis 3-3, Russell 3-2. Passing-Jacksonville, Garrard 9-21-2-140. Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger 29-42-3-337. Receiving-Jacksonville, Wilford 2-39, R.Williams 2-23, Lewis 2-16, Jones-Drew 1-43, Northcutt 1-17, F.Taylor 1-2. Pittsburgh, Ward 10-135, Miller 8-85, Holmes 3-49, Davenport 2-23, Davis 2-14, Wilson 1-10, Washington 1-8, Spaeth 1-7, Russell 1-6. Missed field goal-Jacksonville, Scobee 46 (WR).