By Larry Fine
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Super Bowl champion New York Giants, powered by a dynamic performance by rookie David Wilson, preserved their one-game lead in the tight NFC East race by routing the visiting New Orleans Saints 52-27 on Sunday.
Bolstered by a huge coming-out party by Wilson, who gained 227 yards on four kickoff returns including a 97-yard touchdown dash, the Giants improved to 8-5 while dropping the sloppy Saints to 5-8.
Wilson scored from six yards out and capped a spectacular day with a 52-yard touchdown burst from scrimmage in the fourth quarter that gave him 100 yards rushing, which he celebrated with a back-flip in the end zone.
The total 327 yards amassed by the rookie, who had taken a background role after fumbling in the first game of the season, was a team record for a single game.
The Giants also set a franchise mark for kickoff return yardage and had safety Stevie Brown, who picked off two Drew Brees passes and returned one 70 yards, set a team season record for interception return yardage.
Along with four touchdown passes from quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants took their score past 50 points for the first time since the 1986 season.
"We did a lot of good things today but we've got a lot more to get done," Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters.
"We have traditionally done a decent job in certain years when we had no margin for error and our backs were to the wall."
The victory allowed the Giants to maintain their one-game lead in the division, as the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins also posted wins to improve to 7-6.
First-round draft pick Wilson scored New York's first touchdown with his electrifying kickoff return and contributed two other returns of more than 50 yards in the first half.
"To come out and have a breakout game like this is an excellent feeling," said Wilson. "I went out there and my team mates went out there and put up 50 points, which hasn't happened in all long time."
New York quarterback Eli Manning did his share after throwing a first-quarter interception that was run back 73 yards for a touchdown by defensive back Elbert Mack that put New Orleans ahead 7-0.
The Giants led 21-13 at intermission and struck for two touchdowns early in the third quarter to seize a 35-13 lead. New Orleans countered with two quick scores of their own to draw within eight points at 35-27 by the end of the quarter.
Boosted by another long kickoff return by Jerrel Jernigan, New York got another touchdown to restore a cushion and finished with the last 17 points of the game to complete a rout.
Manning threw two interceptions but hit on 22-of-35 passes for 259 yards and connected with Martellus Bennett, Domenik Hixon, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz for touchdowns.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was 26-of-43 for 354 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Saints also fumbled the ball away twice and committed a rash of penalties that set back their attack.
"I'm disappointed, disappointed because we keep giving these things away," said Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. "You can't have that many turnovers and you can't give up field position like that and expect to beat a good team."
(Editing by Ian Ransom)