By Paul Dottino
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They did it again. So maybe this is the way it has to be.
The Giants, needing a win to maintain a one-game lead in the NFC East, played up to their potential in a big spot and hammered the New Orleans Saints, 52-27. Several players admitted they knew before kickoff that the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins had come from behind and won their respective games in dramatic fashion. Still, the players insisted they never lost focus on trying to beat New Orleans, mindful of coach Tom Coughlin’s message: 4-0.
So they went out and produced their highest offensive showing since a 55-24 victory over Green Bay on Dec. 20, 1986.
One down, three to go – thanks to the type of performance that will get the Giants to where they want to go. And maybe first-round pick David Wilson will have a hand in taking them there.
Wilson became the first player in NFL history with at least 200 kickoff return yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game. But we’ll get to more of this below. Let’s get to our review:
Offense-QB Eli Manning. He wasn’t at this best – the Saints had two interceptions (Elbert Mack returned one for a 73-yard TD to open the scoring) and dropped two others. But Manning finished 22-of-35 for 259 yards with four touchdowns. His most impressive throw – and the most important – was a perfectly thrown 5-yard fade into the right corner of the end zone for WR Domenik Hixon to put the Giants up, 21-13 with 20 seconds left in the first half. The Saints never recovered. This was Manning’s seventh career four-TD game, tying the team record set by Y.A. Tittle.
Defense-S Stevie Brown. Either he’s invisible to the opposing quarterback or they think he’s wearing their jersey. Brown had two more interceptions, giving him seven for the season (the most by a Giant since Mark Haynes in 1984), and forced a fumble. Brown set a team record with 259 interception return yards for the season. On the Saints’ first drive, he knocked the ball free from WR Marques Colston and it was recovered by S Antrel Rolle near midfield. On the first snap of the third quarter, Brown snared a pass that bounced off TE Jimmy Graham to set up the Giants at the New Orleans 20 – they converted it into a TD and a 28-13 lead. Early in the fourth, Brown jumped Graham’s post pattern and ran back the ball 70 yards to the Saints 22.
Special teams-KOR David Wilson. He scored on a 97-yard kickoff return (coming after the Saints took a 7-0 lead) and had other returns of 58 and 52 yards. It marked the Giants’ first kickoff return for a touchdown since Domenik Hixon’s 74-yard dash against New England on Dec. 29, 2007. Wilson also rushed for 100 yards and two TDs. His 327 all-purpose yards established a franchise record – he scored on a 52-yard run with 5:10 left in the game.
Offense-WR Ramses Barden. He did not play very much and was targeted on one incompletion. So the only time you heard his name was when he was called for offensive pass interference on a 23-yard pass to David Wilson late in the first quarter. Barden ran a deep route and held up his man down the left sideline while Wilson beat LB Junior Galette underneath to the Saints 32. The penalty helped short-circuit a drive and the Giants punted with a 14-7 lead.
Defense-CB Prince Amukamara. He made three mistakes that could have proved costly in a tight contest. But little did the Giants know when Amukamara dropped an interception in the second quarter that this game would turn into a blowout. Trailing 14-7 early in the second quarter, the Saints marched 81 yards in 14 plays and settled for a field goal. But on second-and-6 from the Giants 14, Amukamara blew a chance to grab a pass intended for TE Jimmy Graham next to the left sideline. Midway into the third, WR Joseph Morgan beat Amukamara for 62 yards on a post pattern and, in the fourth, Amukamara was flagged for a horse collar after dragging down RB Pierre Thomas.
Special teams-PK Lawrence Tynes. He’s got a full trophy case of game balls this season, but he was wide left on a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter with the Giants leading, 14-10. He has missed a field goal in each of the past two games and is 9-of-12 over the past five games. The Giants had no trouble scoring points this time, but they need to know he can salvage at least three points whenever the offense stumbles in a key spot.
Will they make it two down, two to go against the Falcons? Sound off in the comments below!