|Kathy Willens/Associated Press|
|Rookie tailback David Wilson set a New York Giants record last Sunday with 327 all-purpose yards (100 rushing).|
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Twelve-point-four seconds.
Timing, as they say, is everything.
The Giants need Wilson now more than ever. Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has a sprained knee to go with a perpetually sore foot, will be sidelined against the Atlanta Falcons this week, and perhaps longer. Backup Andre Brown is on injured reserve. Veterans Kregg Lumpkin and Ryan Torain were signed two weeks ago.
Enter Wilson, the Giants' first-round draft pick who performed a backflip in the end zone after every one of his three scores Sunday. (The Giants would strongly like him to end that practice; they can't risk a freak injury on a freakishly athletic celebration.) He wowed teammates all spring and summer with his speed and explosiveness. But after he fumbled in the first game of the season, he didn't see another offensive snap that night and spent subsequent weeks working his way out of Tom Coughlin's doghouse.
"It was just about gaining the coaches' trust, period," Wilson said.
A team-record 327 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns against the New Orleans Saints will earn plenty of trust. He had 227 return yards and an even 100 on 13 carries -- the first time he had more than seven carries in a game.
"He did a terrific job for us," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "We're ecstatic."
It all started with the 97-yard kickoff return. The closest anyone came to touching him was an official at midfield, who stood like a statue as the Wilson wind tunnel blew by. Wilson leads the NFC with 1,321 kickoff return yards and had been close several times, but getting to the end zone, he said, felt "like knocking down a brick wall, and I'm pretty sure the 10 guys that were on the (kickoff return team) with me felt the same way."
His teammates had this collective reaction: Finally.
"He's been close to taking one to the house all season," fellow rookie Jayron Hosley said. "It was about time."
Said Justin Tuck: "I don't know what took him so long."
Wilson's teammates tell him they're looking for impact outings from him every week. Wilson laughs, but does not lack confidence.
"The whole time, I've been preparing and working hard so when my number is called, I'll be ready," he said. "That happened last game and I think I handled it pretty well."
Antrel Rolle describes Wilson's talents -- he says his fastest 40 time is 4.28 and he's sturdy enough to truck a linebacker -- as unique and special.
"The skills he brings to this game are extraordinary," Rolle said. But there is a secondary message: "Even though he may be a rookie, this is what we expect. He can get it done."
And that, for the Giants, is now paramount.
Bradshaw, a willing tutor, provided Wilson with particularly savvy advice. "Think during the week," Bradshaw told him. "When you're out there on game day, just play."
With that theme, the Giants appear to be onto something.
Before last week's game, special teams coordinator Tom Quinn did not give Wilson a weekly assignment sheet. Instead, Quinn delivered these three words: "Just run fast."
Wilson did more than simply fulfill that assignment. He showed toughness on a 6-yard touchdown run.
"I didn't know he'd be able to run over a linebacker (Jonathan Vilma) the way he did," Gilbride said. "He's just getting better and better."
Which figures, doesn't it? Wilson is, after all, just 21 years old. He has fresh legs. With only 41 carries all season, he says he feels like he's through two games of a college season. Or, as he colorfully explains: "I haven't been in for my oil change yet."
Coughlin likes Wilson's stamina, but there is a chance that is tested in coming weeks. Wilson, for the first time in the NFL, will be a focus of defenses, beginning with the Falcons.
"He's got 41 carries," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said, "and I can assure you I've watched all 41 of them."
Surely, this will represent a new challenge for Wilson. Perhaps his best approach should be a familiar one.
"Just run fast."
Follow Kimberly Jones on Twitter @KimJonesSports.