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," Wilson said, 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.
"He made some huge plays today, when we needed it the most," receiver Victor Cruz said, 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."
New York snapped a three-game losing streak against the Saints, who turned over the ball four times in losing their third consecutive game.
"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."
"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.
The biggest play was Wilson's kickoff return, which came one play after Elbert Mack intercepted Manning in the left flat and returned it 73 yards to give the Saints a 7-0 lead.
The touchdown came minutes after Dallas rallied for a 20-19 win over Cincinnati and Washington beat Baltimore 31-28 in overtime despite losing Robert Griffin III to a knee injury.
"Our concern for the next three weeks is the New York Giants and that's all we can focus on," Manning said, who completed 22 of 35 passes for 259 yards.
The Giants could have folded against a team that had routed them the past two meetings. Instead, Wilson, who has been threatening all season to break a kickoff, fielded one at the 3, went up the middle and then veered toward the right corner of the end zone. He capped it with a somersault.
"That was huge," Rolle said. "That was huge. He has always been a fraction away from breaking it all year long and guys have been constantly pushing him to do it."
A fumble near midfield Jed Collins led to Manning's touchdown pass to Bennett and New York never trailed again.
Brees, who had never lost to the Giants and had eight TD passes and no interceptions in the last two games, finished 26-of-43 passing for 354 yards. New Orleans outgained New York 487-394, but mistakes were its undoing.
The Giants didn't cash in after Wilson's returns of 58 and 52 yards, but his 20-yarder late in the half after a short kickoff set up a 69-yard touchdown drive. Manning capped it with the fade route to Hixon.
NOTES: Hixon had the old Giants single-season record for all-purposes yards at 303 in 2009. ...Wilson also set a single-season record for kickoff return yards with 1,301 yard....Brown has broken the Giants single-season record for interception return yards with 259 on seven interceptions. The old mark of 251 was set by Dick Lynch and Emlen Tunnell. ...Patrick Robinson had the Saints' other interception of Manning. Joseph Morgan has two catches for 106 yards for New Orleans.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press