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Reasons to Celebrate: Kickoff return explosion

David Wilson and the kickoff return team unit led the way to victory over the New Orleans Saints. Wilson and the Giants are setting franchise records for kickoff returns this season.


It's easy to use this week's 'Celebration' post to rave about David Wilson and his franchise record 327 all purpose yard night against the New Orleans Saints...but that would be too predictable. Wilson was a big contributing factor to the special teams as a whole last night as the New York Giants crushed the Saints, 52-27.

Wilson began the game with a 58-yard return, but was wasted with a three and out and the Giants punted away. After Marques Colston fumbled, the Giants got the ball back, but ultimately gave it back to the Saints when Eli Manning threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Normally, that kills some momentum, but it didn't kill Wilson's. Wilson returned the next kickoff for 97 yards all the way for the touchdown, making everyone immediately forget Manning's mistake.

"Obviously, giving us a touchdown after I threw an interception for a touchdown was very nice. I appreciated that," said Manning. "He had a couple of other returns that gave us great field position and then the runs. He's learning, running hard, and he had a couple of big runs at the end for first downs. He obviously showed speed on the toss for that last touchdown."

Wilson also returned a kickoff in the second quarter for 52-yards, putting the Giants on the Saints' 46. However, that was also wasted when Lawrence Tynes missed a 36-yard field goal attempt wide left.

The Saints decided to stay away from Wilson on kickoffs and kicked in the direction of Jerrel Jernigan instead. Jernigan returned a kickoff for 60 yards with the help of a big Will Hill block. It put the Giants in good field position on the New Orleans' 25-yard line. A few plays later Manning connects with Victor Cruz for the touchdown, bringing the score to 42-27 with 14:20 left to play.

The Giants set a team record with 287 kickoff return yards in the game (227 by Wilson and 60 by Jernigan). The former record of 274 yards was set at Washington on Nov. 27, 1966. Wilson has returned 48 kickoffs for 1,321 yards, a 27.5-yard average, this season. The yardage total is a team record, topping Hixon's 1,291 yards in 2009. Wilson's 27.5-yard average currently makes him the Giants' career leader (minimum 40 returns). Rocky Thompson had held the record with a 27.2-yard average on 65 returns from 1971-73.

Kudos to players all around the kickoff return team for creating the holes for Wilson and Jernigan to run through. Jim Cordle, Henry Hynoski, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger, Bear Pascoe and Hill all made some exceptional blocks and hits to make this night possible for special teams. It would be a crime not to give all of them credit.

The Giants have this year what had been missing for the last few seasons, and that's a powerful return team.

"Our kickoff return team gave us unbelievable field position. Some of which we didn't take advantage of. Then JJ Jernigan jumped in there and he made a play as well. So I was really pleased with that. It was good, hard, fast running, but obviously there was some good blocking as well," said head coach Tom Coughlin.

You can follow Kelsey O'Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell