In a game that took on must-win importance after a handful of Sunday upsets put the New York Giants' back against the wall, rookie running back David Wilson, who was in coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse much of the season, ran all over the New Orleans Saints, leading New York to a 52-27 win.
Wilson ran for 327 all-purpose yards Sunday, including two rushing touchdowns and a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, helping Big Blue turn the tables on the Saints, who have dominated the Giants of late.
When the Giants took the field Sunday, they already knew that next week's matchup in Atlanta would be no cakewalk—the Falcons got run by the Carolina Panthers, which meant Atlanta wouldn't be resting any starters next week as they have a lot of work ahead to secure the home-field advantage.
More slim were the Cowboys' and Redskins' hopes of staying only a game back: With less than a minute to go Sunday, both teams trailed their favored opponents only to pull out improbable victories in the waning seconds of their respective matchups.
Robert Griffin III got a little late-game help to beat the Baltimore Ravens 31-28 in overtime, and Dallas came back from a nine-point deficit to win with a field goal as time ran out Sunday.
Those wins meant that Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants could feel the Skins and Cowboys breathing down their back Sunday, all the while knowing that the next two weeks—in which the Giants face the first-place Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens—would offer no relief.
But back to Wilson, the rookie running back who wondered if he would ever get out of Coughlin's doghouse after fumbling in the season-opener against Dallas.
Wilson, the Giants’ first-round pick, had his long-awaited breakout game Sunday, leading New York with 100 yards rushing and a spectacular 97-yard kickoff return that tied the game midway into the first quarter.
But it was his 52-yard touchdown run with 5:10 remaining that secured a Giants win—and the first 100-yard game of Wilson's career.
Coughlin pulled Wilson from the season-opening loss to Dallas after he lost the ball on his second carry of the game. After that, Wilson was the odd man out as New York turned to Andre Brown to share carries with veteran Ahmad Bradshaw.
But with Brown out for the season and Bradshaw hurting, it was Wilson or bust.
Wilson helped New York set a franchise record with 287 kickoff-return yards, which included a 60-yarder from Jerrel Jernigan late in the third quarter that helped quell the Saints' momentum and led to a Manning-to-Cruz touchdown that gave New York breathing room.
With the Falcons and Ravens coming up, it may be up to Wilson, now in Coughlin's good graces, to keep New York in the penthouse atop the NFC East.