By Ernie Palladino
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David Wilson at one point this year resided in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse.
Mistakes like fumbles, even a single one, can get a rookie in dutch with a coach like Coughlin in no time, even if said rookie arrived in the first round. But you can bet after Sunday’s performance that he’s Coughlin’s new favorite running back.
This is not to say he’s going to supplant Ahmad Bradshaw as the starter anytime soon, at least if Bradshaw remains healthy enough to handle those responsibilities. That might just happen, though, as we won’t know exactly what’s happening until later in the week with the bum knee that sent Bradshaw in and out of the lineup.
Whatever happens, be assured the kid most certainly left Coughlin’s doghouse behind. Necessity — Andre Brown’s broken fibula — created an expanded role for him. But it was up to Wilson to make good on the opportunity.
He did, and in leaving Coughlin’s pooch-palace he didn’t just crawl out, he busted it to pieces and then danced on the splinters.
On a day the Giants did plenty wrong on offense and defense, and even missed a short field goal in the 52-27 win over the Saints, but still managed to put up their biggest points total since 1986, Wilson’s performance was easily the highlight. He compiled 327 all-purpose yards, a franchise record, with 227 of those coming on four kickoff returns.
It was what he did just 13 seconds after New Orleans got on the board first, off Eli Manning’s pick-six, that might have cemented Wilson’s place in Coughlin’s heart forever.
Or at least until after next week’s encounter in Atlanta. Coaches, ya know?
At any rate, the Giants were desperately seeking solutions, and Wilson found one. He brought the ensuing kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown.
Remember, this is a man who had been relegated almost strictly to kickoff return duty after some early-season problems. He’d had some good returns, and Coughlin remarked that he was but a hair from breaking one all the way on several occasions.
Wilson’s bustout couldn’t have come at a better time, just moments after Dallas came back to beat Cincinnati and Washington beat Baltimore in overtime. A loss would have dropped the Giants into a three-way tie for first.
Instead, Wilson set a tone. Starting at his 3, he took it up the middle and then broke right, got a block from Justin Tryon, and evened the score.
“I don’t know what took him so long,” Justin Tuck said, smiling.
There was much work to be done after that, of course. Manning still had another turnover in him, and the Giants didn’t cash in on Wilson returns of 58 and 52 yards.
But the Saints never caught them, though they did threaten after knocking what had been a 35-13 lead down to eight points in the third quarter. A Victor Cruz touchdown, a Lawrence Tynes field goal — he had missed a closer attempt earlier, and Wilson’s second rushing touchdown of the day from 52 yards out finished a day of history making.
All in all, he had a nice afternoon: three touchdowns, his first kickoff return touchdown, his first 100-yard rushing day, and becoming the first Giant in history to record a kickoff return touchdown and two rushing touchdowns in the same game.
And he helped the 8-5 Giants preserve their one-game lead in the NFC East.
Now, do it against Atlanta next week and Baltimore a week later, and they might just have something.
In the meantime, they’ll be happy the back-flipping running back showed more than signs that he, like Andre Brown before him, will become a scoring force in this playoff drive.
They may just need him to be more than that, too, depending on Bradshaw’s health.
Either way, no more dog days for Wilson. At least for a another week.
Is it safe to say the bar has been raised for Mr. Wilson? Be heard in the comments below!