A week ago Peyton Hillis was out of work and thought his NFL career might be over for good. Monday night Hillis played a key role as the New York Giants earned their first victory of the season, defeating the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7.
Hillis' numbers were modest -- 18 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown with a long run of 8 yards, along with 5 receptions for 45 yards. His performance, however, was much more than he, or the Giants, could have expected when they signed him last Tuesday.
"Peyton Hillis did an outstanding job," said head coach Tom Coughlin.
With David Wilson (neck) and Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) sidelined, Hillis split the workload at running back with rookie Michael Cox, who was seeing his first regular-season action at running back. As the game wore on and the Giants were trying to protect their lead in the fourth quarter it was Hillis who saw the majority of the snaps.
"I think I'm gonna be a little sore tomorrow," said Hillis, who was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after one game and no carries earlier this season.
"Going in tonight my legs felt like Jell-O," Hillis said. "I could sense myself going out there and making cuts and about falling on my face, but I didn't."
Hillis admitted that he was learning the Giants' offense on the fly. "A lot of things you just did on the move," he said. "Sometimes it worked out.
"I didn't do that great of a job on the ground, there's still a lot of room for improvement."
"I did some things to help the team win," Hillis said. "There's a lot of room for improvement."
Hillis referred to the setting for his return to the NFL as "spectacular."
Hillis starred with the Cleveland Browns in 2010, gaining 1,177 yards. His career has tumbled since then, however, with an acrimonious departure from Cleveland followed by unsuccessful stops with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buccaneers.
"It's kinda like a movie," said Hillis, who admitted his touchdown was "something that I've needed for a long time."
The Giants have needed dependable backs who could both run and catch all season. Hillis showed Monday night that he just might be one.