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 Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Giants' defense forced four turnovers, and New York rookie David Wilson scored three touchdowns. The Giants, who snapped a three-game winning streak by the Saints in the teams' series, stayed atop of the NFC East at 8-5. The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys are each one game back.
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, and he set a franchise record with 327 all-purpose yards. He gained 100 yards on 13 carries.
The kickoff returns in particular were backbreakers for the Saints, with Thomas Morstead's kicks landing shorter than usual.
"It's outdoors, they had a little bit of a breeze down there and it was raining, so I don't think you can expect them to go that far," Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt said. "(But) that's no excuse. Our coverage teams have done an outstanding job all year long, and it's a shame what happened with our coverage teams, but that's what they're paid to do ... and we didn't do that."
Giants quarterback Eli Manning 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.
Victor Cruz led the Giants' receiving corps with eight receptions for 121 yards.
New York safeties Stevie Brown and Antrel Rolle forced fumbles on back-to-back first-half Saints offensive drives. Rolle's hit and the ensuing fumble recovery by defensive tackle Linval Joseph set the stage for Martellus Bennett's 6-yard touchdown reception, which gave the Giants a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.
New Orleans (5-8) never evened the score again.
The loss was the first against the Giants for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who had won each of his previous four games against New York. Brees completed 26 of 43 passes for 354 yards, but he was picked off twice and threw just one touchdown pass.
The Saints' bright spots on offense included a total of 142 rushing yards despite the absence of Chris Ivory, plus a 106-yard receiving game by Joseph Morgan.
The Saints committed six first-half penalties and converted just three of seven third-down attempts in the first 30 minutes.
In the second half, things weren't much better for New Orleans.
Early in the third quarter, 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 6-yard touchdown run, which gave his team a 28-13 lead.
Until Sunday, Wilson was known as the player whose fumble in the season opener landed him in the coaches' doghouse.
"I didn't have the greatest start for a rookie, and rookies have little room for error, so at that point I just was put in a position where I had to gain the coaches' trust again," Wilson said. "I stuck with it and kept working in the classroom and in the field and trying to regain the coaches' trust, and I knew that eventually my opportunity would come again. So I was prepared for the opportunity."
New York struck again in the third quarter, this time on receiver Hakeem Nicks' 25-yard reception from Manning that extended the Giants' lead to 35-13. Nicks, who was listed as questionable for the game, had two receptions for 48 yards on the drive.
The Saints scored the next two touchdowns to cut their deficit to eight.
Running back Darren Sproles ran for a 13-yard touchdown on a drive that including a 62-yard reception by Morgan. Sproles then had a 9-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.
The Giants, who completely dominated the Saints on special teams, got another big kickoff return, this one a 60-yarder by Jernigan, whose return set up Manning's 10-yard touchdown toss to Cruz to give the Giants a 42-27 lead.
Brees, who last week threw five interceptions, tossed his second of the game on a pass intended for Graham that was picked off by Brown, who had his second multiple-interception game of the season. 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 added a 52-yard touchdown run, becoming the first Giant in franchise history to record two touchdowns on offense and a touchdown on a kickoff return in the same game.
"Offensively we moved the ball. Defensively we had some short fields, but here's the key: We can't have four turnovers in a game, especially against a very good football team," Vitt said. "We can't allow them to have the returns that they had and score the touchdown on one of the returns. When you look at the critical factors, we didn't deserve to win this game."
The Giants 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. Even so, New York coach Tom Coughlin believes there is a lot of room for his team to get better.
"We're now 2-1 in our six-game season," he said. "We did a lot of good things today, and yet we have more to get done. We spoke at halftime with a smile on my face about how we're capable of playing better than we're playing right now."
NOTES: Wilson's 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 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 franchise single-season record for interception-return yards with 259. The old mark of 251 yards was shared by Dick Lynch (1963) and Emlen Tunnell (1949). ... Ivory was a last-minute scratch after being added to the Saints' injury report Saturday with a hamstring ailment. ... Giants safety Kenny Phillips, who didn't practice all week, was scratched from the game. ... New York linebacker Jacquian Williams returned from a knee injury that kept is sidelined for six weeks.