East Rutherford, N.J. - The New York Giants, who last year were shredded by the New Orleans Saints, returned the favor by handing the Saints a 52-27 beat down at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The win, which was fueled by two forced fumbles and an interception by safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, and three touchdowns by rookie David Wilson, snapped a three-game winning streak by the Saints in games played between the two clubs and kept the Giants atop of the NFC East despite the Washington Redskins' 31-28 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Wilson returned four first-half kickoffs for 227 yards, including a 97-yarder for a touchdown, as the Giants jumped out to a 21-13 halftime lead. Wilson also scored his first and second career rushing touchdowns in the second half.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, meanwhile, threw four touchdown passes, overcoming two interceptions, including a first-half pick by cornerback Elbert Mack on a pass intended for Jerrel Jernigan that was returned 73 yards for the Saints' first touchdown.
The forced fumbles by Brown and Rolle on back-to-back first-half Saints offensive drives proved to be huge, with Rolle's forced fumble and ensuing fumble recovery by defensive tackle Linval Joseph setting the stage for Martellus Bennett's score, which put the Giants in the lead.
The Saints loss, meanwhile, was the first against the Giants for quarterback Drew Brees, who came into this week's game 4-0 against New York. Brees saw his team record six first-half penalties and convert just three of its seven third-down attempts in the first 30 minutes of the game as the Giants jumped out to a 21-13 lead at the half.
In the second half, things weren't much better for New Orleans, as Brees' pass intended for tight end Jimmy Graham was picked off by Brown, the Giants' team leader with seven interceptions.
That turnover set the stage for Wilson's first score, a six-yard run, which gave his team a 28-13 lead early in the third quarter.
New York struck again, this time on a touchdown pass going to receiver Hakeem Nicks. Nicks, who had been listed as questionable for this week's game, had two receptions for 48 yards on the drive, including his 25-yard touchdown reception that extended the Giants' lead 35-13.
The Saints, however, kept fighting back, at one point closing the Giants' 22-point lead to eight. Running back Darren Sproles ran for a 13-yard touchdown on a drive that was set up on a 62-yard reception by receiver Joseph Morgan. Sproles also had a nine-yard touchdown reception, which was set up by Manning's second interception of the game, a pass picked off by safety Isa Abdul-Quddus on a ball intended for Bennett.
But the Giants, who completely dominated the Saints on special teams, got another big kickoff return, this one a 60-yarder by receiver Jernigan, whose return set up Manning's 10-yard touchdown toss to Victor Cruz to give the Giants a 42-27 lead.
The Saints, whose bright spots on offense included over a 100 yards rushing despite the absence of Chris Ivory and a 100-yard receiving game by receiver Joseph Morgan, tried to chip away at the Giants lead.
However, Brees, who last week threw five interceptions, tossed his third one of the game on a pass intended for Graham but which was picked off by Brown, who had his second game this season with multiple interceptions. Brown returned the ball 70 yards, and kicker Lawrence Tynes, who earlier in the game missed a 36-yard field goal, converted from 39 yards to make it 45-27.
Wilson put the cherry on the cake for the Giants on a 52-yard touchdown run, his third score of the game and second rushing touchdown. With that score, Wilson became the first Giant in franchise history to record two touchdowns on offense and a touchdown on a kickoff return in the same game.
The Giants also recorded 50 or more points in a regular-season game for the first time since Week 17 of the 1986 season when they thrashed Green Bay 55-24.
New York, which remains in control of its destiny as the NFC East leader, will head to Atlanta to meet the Falcons, who this week lost to Carolina 30-20.
If the Giants can defeat the Falcons, they will manage to defeat all three opponents they faced in last year's postseason, including earlier wins against San Francisco, whom they faced in the 2011 NFC Championship game, and Green Bay, whom they topped in the divisional round, by a combined score of 54-13.
The Saints, meanwhile, fell to 5-8. They will return home next week to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost 23-21 to the Eagles this week.
Notes: Wilson's first-quarter, 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the first by a Giant since Dec. 27, 2007 when Domenik Hixon returned one 74 yards against the Patriots. ... The Giants set a new club mark for most kickoff return yards in a single game. New York finished with six kickoffs for 287 yards, bettering the previous club mark of 274 yards set on Nov. 27, 1966, at Washington. ... Brown, who had two interceptions, set a new franchise single season record for return yards with 259. The old mark of 251 yards had been previously shared by Dick Lynch (1963), and Emlen Tunnell (1949). ... Ivory was a last minute scratch after being added to the Saints injury report on Saturday with a hamstring ailment. Meanwhile, for the Giants, safety Kenny Phillips, who didn't practice all week, was also scratched from the game while linebacker Jacquian Williams returned from a knee injury that kept is sidelined for six weeks