- Last Updated: 7:45 PM, December 9, 2012
- Posted: 7:39 PM, December 9, 2012
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
It could have been a huge swing day in the NFC East for the Giants, a swing that could have spun then from first place all the way down to third in the division they once thought they controlled.
As it turned out, status quo never looked so good for the Giants. They engaged in a wild back-and-forth scoring spree with the dangerous, mistake-prone Saints, taking a lead, watching it shrink and getting outrageous returns from rookie David Wilson, who enjoyed his NFL coming-out party in an exhausting, rain-filled and explosive 52-27 victory at soggy MetLife Stadium.
Wilson became the first Giants player since 1948 to have a rushing and kickoff return for a touchdown in the same game, taking over as Ahmad Bradshaw was slowed by a knee issue that limited his workload. His three-touchdown performance overshadowed Eli Manning’s outing, which included four touchdown passes and his two interceptions. Wilson had a kickoff return of 97 yards for a touchdown and scoring runs of six and 52 yards.
At 8-5, the Giants maintained their one-game lead in the division on the Redskins and Cowboys, both 7-6.
The Giants no doubt left their locker room prior to the game believing the events of the day were working in their favor. As they went out for warm-ups, the early games looked great for the Giants until they turned into double disasters. The Cowboys, trailing all game, came back to beat the Bengals 20-19 on Dan Bailey’s last-second field goal. The Redskins, trailing the entire second half and losing Robert Griffin III to a knee injury, came back to force overtime against the Ravens and then backup Kirk Cousins helped produce a dramatic 31-28 victory.
And so, the Giants took the field with the pressure squarely on them; if they lost, they would drop into a three-way tie for first in the NFC East but actually in third place based on tie-breakers. That dreary scenario was avoided because the Saints (5-8) are dreadful on defense and were shockingly inept in covering kicks. Drew Brees, coming off a career-high five interception nightmare in Atlanta, threw two of them against the Giants, both to safety Stevie Brown.
Brees had been 4-0 with 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions against the Giants but he had no chance in this one, as the New Orleans special teams and defense were abysmal.
Leading 21-13 at halftime, the Giants looked to put things away with a ferocious start to the second half. Antrel Rolle, having a huge impact, leaped to defend a pass to towering tight end Jimmy Graham and the high throw was intercepted by Brown and returned 21 yards to the New Orleans 20. It didn’t take long before Wilson was powering in and stretching over the goal line on a six-yard scoring run. Wilson punctuated the touchdown with a left-handed spike and then a back-flip. A few minutes later, Manning hit a resurgent Hakeem Nicks on a 25-yard strike, Nicks easily beating cornerback Patrick Robinson.
The rout was on with the Giants leading 35-13 but then it was off. A 62-yard pass from Brees to Joseph Morgan put the Saints in position for Darren Sproles’ scoring scoot. Manning, getting greedy, overlooked a wide open Victor Cruz over the middle and forced one deep to Bennett that Isa Abdul-Quddus intercepted. Six plays later Brees hit the jet-quick Sproles on a screen and it the Saints were within 35-27.
The Saints got smart and stopped kicking deep to Wilson and so Jerrel Jernigan took the next kickoff back 60 yards to the New Orleans 25. From there, the Saints’ terrible secondary was shredded again, as Cruz blew by Johnny Patrick on the line of scrimmage and was wide open for a 10-yard TD toss.
Manning’s exquisitely-thrown fade to Domenik Hixon with only 20 seconds left in the first half put the Giants ahead 21-13. Perfectly acceptable for the Giants, considering Manning put his team in a 7-0 hole less than six minutes in when his misdirected throw for Jerrel Jernigan was intercepted by cornerback Elbert Mack and returned 73 yards for a touchdown.
The Saints lead lasted 13 seconds, as Wilson took the ensuing kickoff and was gone, bursting for a 97-yard touchdown return, with Justin Tryon running interference for him. Wilson had been teasing everyone all season with his returns, took his first one back 58 yards before finally cashing in.
Brees could not get the Saints in the end zone in the first half. Antrel Rolle challenged his teammates to get nastier and play with a “dog mentality’’ and he was a dervish at the start. He recovered a first-quarter fumble after a 30-yard reception by Marques Colston after a double-hit by Will Hill and Stevie Brown.Follow @NYPostsports