- Associated Press - Sunday, December 9, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rookie David Wilson was given a simple piece of advice by special teams coach Tom Quinn before the New York Giants‘ game against the New Orleans Saints: “Run fast.”

The first-round draft pick did more than that. He might have provided the spark that gets the defending Super Bowl champions back to the playoffs with several electrifying kickoff returns and big-gainers on handoffs from Eli Manning.

Wilson sprinted 97 yards on a kickoff return for one touchdown, ran for 100 yards and two more scores and piled up a team-record 327 all-purpose yards in a 52-27 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Manning, meanwhile, chipped in with four touchdown passes.

“To come up and have a breakout game like this is an excellent feeling,” said Wilson, who became the first NFL player to have 200 yards in kickoff returns and 100 yards rushing in a game. “You want to have a good game every game. I went out there and my teammates went out there and we played great and put up 50 points.”

The performance could not have come in a bigger game. It allowed the Giants (8-5) to maintain their one-game lead in the NFC East over Washington and Dallas, and it finally showed the league the talent that teammates have seen almost every day in practice.

Wilson’s NFL career did not start well. He was benched after fumbling in the season opener against Dallas and it’s taken until recently for him to work his way back into coach Tom Coughlin’s good graces.

“He made some huge plays today, when we needed it the most,” said receiver Victor Cruz, who had eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. “Some were unexpected. We’ve watched him in practice just do amazing things, be it breaking plays or making cuts that you only see guys who are Hall of Famers make. So he definitely is the most athletic on the team and showed it today.”

In all but ending the playoff hopes of Drew Brees and the Saints (5-8), the Giants showed they again can be a force in the postseason if they can get there.

New York snapped a three-game losing streak against the Saints, who turned over the ball four times in losing their third straight.

“Honestly, this is our playoffs,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “These are playoff type games. The teams we’re going to play, the atmosphere we’re going to play in, this is what it is about. This is the type of football that leads into the playoffs and this is what we need.”

Manning had TD passes of 6 yards to Martellus Bennett, 5 yards to Hixon, 25 yards to Hakeem Nicks and 10 yards to Cruz. Wilson scored on runs of 6 and 52 yards and hit 100 yards on only 13 carries for the biggest day of his short career.

The 52 points are the most for the Giants since scoring 55 against Green Bay in 1986. It also was the most given up by New Orleans, whose defense is run by former New York coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

“I wouldn’t say we’re fragile,” said linebacker Jonathan Vilma, whose fate for the balance of the season might be decided Tuesday when former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue hands down a decision on his Bountygate suspension appeal. “I wouldn’t know what to call it. We’re accustomed to finding ways to win. This year, we’re just not good enough to overcome a lot of the mistakes. We have to be more conscious in games and more detail oriented in practice about how we handle our business on Sundays.

Darren Sproles scored on a 13-yard run and caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Brees late in the third quarter, cutting the Giants lead to 35-27.

However, Jerrel Jernigan returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to set up Manning’s touchdown pass to Cruz. New York iced the game when Stevie Brown returned one of his two interceptions of Brees to set up Lawrence Tynes’ 39-yard field goal.

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