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Wilson sparks Giants to key win over fading Saints

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Wilson sparks Giants to key win over fading Saints

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) When the New York Giants made their run to the Super Bowl a year ago, a 99-yard touchdown catch and run by Victor Cruz against the Jets seemed to be the ignition point.

It was a play that woke up an inconsistent team and turned it into a power.

If the 52-27 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday turns out to be the victory that gets the Giants (8-5) going again, everyone is going to point to rookie David Wilson's 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as the play that sparked the run.

Wilson re-energized the Giants with his electrifying run just 15 seconds after New Orleans returned an interception for an early score, and he didn't stop there. The first-round pick from Virginia Tech also ran for 100 yards and two more scores and piled up a team-record 327 all-purpose yards in a breakout performance that allowed New York to maintain a one-game lead over Washington and Dallas in the NFC East with three games to play.

``He made some huge plays today when we needed it the most and some were unexpected,'' said Cruz, who added eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. ``We would watch him in practice just do amazing things, whether it be breaking plays or making some cuts that we only see guys that are Hall of Famers make. He's definitely the most athletic on the team and he made some big plays today.''

It's been a long time coming. Wilson showed potential in training camp but fumbled in Dallas territory in the season opener and spent much of the last two months in Tom Coughlin's doghouse. His role is probably going to pick up with Ahmad Bradshaw now iffy with an injury to his left knee.

``To come up and have a breakout game like this is an excellent feeling,'' said Wilson, who became the first NFL player to have 200 yards in kickoff returns and 100 yards rushing in a game. ``You want to have a good game every game. I went out there and my teammates went out there and we played great.''

Wilson wasn't the only one. Eli Manning chipped in with four touchdown passes. The defense forced four turnovers by New Orleans (5-8), including two interceptions by Stevie Brown, and the kickoff return team accounted for a team-record 287 yards.

``A win is always good and a win is always a confidence booster and for us to go out there and play a full, dominant game with all three phases of the game, I think that speaks volumes for this team and what direction we're headed,'' safety Antrel Rolle said.

The performance came hours after Washington and Dallas rallied to win, requiring New York to win to stay in first place.

The loss all but ended the playoff hopes of Drew Brees and the Saints (5-8), who dropped their third straight game and had a three-game winning streak against the Giants snapped.

``We've shown the resolve and the resiliency to never give up,'' Saints cornerback Jabari Greer said. ``We're not going to go that. This is football and sometimes you fall down. We fell down hard today. We're going to fight and never give up.''

Manning had TD passes of 6 yards to Martellus Bennett, 5 yards to Domenik Hixon, 25 yards to Hakeem Nicks and 10 yards to Cruz. Wilson scored on runs of 6 and 52 yards and hit 100 yards on only 13 carries for the biggest day of his short career.

The 52 points are the most for the Giants since scoring 55 against Green Bay in 1986. It also was the most given up by New Orleans, whose defense is run by former New York coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

``I wouldn't say we're fragile,'' said linebacker Jonathan Vilma, whose fate for the balance of the season might be decided Tuesday when former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue hands down a decision on his Bountygate suspension appeal. ``I wouldn't know what to call it. We're accustomed to finding ways to win. This year, we're just not good enough to overcome a lot of the mistakes. We have to be more conscious in games and more detail oriented in practice about how we handle our business on Sundays.''

Darren Sproles scored on a 13-yard run and caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Brees late in the third quarter, cutting the Giants' lead to 35-27.

However, Jerrel Jernigan returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to set up Manning's touchdown pass to Cruz. New York iced the game when Brown went 70 yards with his second pick to set up Lawrence Tynes' 39-yard field goal.

The afternoon seemed to take a bad turn for New York when Dallas rallied for a 20-19 win over Cincinnati and Washington beat Baltimore 31-28 in overtime despite losing Robert Griffin III to a knee injury. Elbert Mack then intercepted Manning in the left flat and returned it 73 yards to give the Saints a 7-0 lead.

Wilson turned it all around in a mad dash.

``Our concern for the next three weeks is the New York Giants and that's all we can focus on,'' said Manning, who completed 22 of 35 for 259 yards.

Brees, who had never lost to the Giants and had eight TD passes and no interceptions in the last two games, finished 26 of 43 for 354 yards.

NOTES: Hixon held the Giants single-season record for all-purposes yards at 303 in 2009. ... Wilson also set a single-season record for kickoff return yards with 1,301 yards. ... Brown has broken the Giants single-season record for interception return yards with 259 on seven interceptions. The old mark of 251 was set by Dick Lynch and Emlen Tunnell. ... Patrick Robinson had the Saints' other interception of Manning. Joseph Morgan has two catches for 106 yards for New Orleans.

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Five observations from Redskins preseason victory over the Jets

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Five observations from Redskins preseason victory over the Jets

Here are my five key observations from the Redskins’ 15-13 preseason win over the Jets.

— It was good that the offense clicked well in the series that Alex Smith was in the game. He was a crisp four of six for 48 yards. It wasn’t good that they couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and that Smith exited after that one series. I know there were concerns about Geron Christian being at left tackle instead of Trent Williams and Smith did get hit pretty hard on the first snap of the game. But after the starting offense sat out the preseason opener I think they needed to go for another series or two.

— The starting defense was in for two series with mixed results. The first Jets possession ended with a three and out with Daron Payne getting a third-down sack to close out the series. The second time, however, Sam Darnold like a drive that covered 42 yards and resulted in a field goal. The rookie completed passes for 13, six, 11, nine and six yards in the drive and looking every bit like the phenom that Josh Norman talked about in Richmond this week. The starting defense was good against the run, allowing 13 yards on six carries in the two drives.

— It looked like WR Cam Sims’ roster bubble was about to burst in the second quarter when he had a Colt McCoy pass in his arms in the red zone with no defender within a couple of yards of him. But the ball popped up in the air and the Jets’ Doug Middleton accepted the gift interception. But later on, he caught a key third down pass between two defenders. In that same drive he made another catch surrounded by defenders and he held onto it when he hit the ground hard. But the touchdown was called back by an illegal formation penalty. Then on the next to the last play of the game, his 20-yard reception set up the game-winning field goal.

— Tim Settle continues to impress. For a couple of drives in the second quarter the Jets’ offensive starters were up against the Redskins’ second-team defense, including Settle. The rookie manhandled former Redskins center Spencer Long on a few snaps and beat some double teams as well. Settle didn’t just impress against the run. He got a couple of pressures on Darnold and nearly got a sack. They will have to find snaps for him in the rotation if he keeps this up.

— The final word here is on playing time. For the most part, the Jets’ starters played the first half. For the Redskins it was one series for the offense and two for the defense. I have to wonder how ready this team with a new quarterback under center will perform coming out of the gate. They will be playing with fire if they don’t sweep their first two games against the Cardinals and Colts. Gruden is 0-4 in season openers as the Redskins coach. I have to say that I’m skeptical that his method of preparing the team for Week 1 will work.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

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Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

LANDOVER, MD — Here is my instant analysis of the Redskins’ 15-13 preseason win over the New York Jets.

— Alex Smith started the game and so did most of the other players who are expected to start Week 1. Rob Kelley was at running back, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson lined up at receiver, and the offensive line was intact — with the exception of Geron Christian playing left tackle. Vernon Davis was the tight end. 

— Smith moved the team efficiently on the first drive, completing four of six passes for 48 yards. He converted one third-and-9 by finding Doctson in a big soft spot in the Jets’ zone for 11 yards. On third-and-goal at the 4, he threw a pass a little behind Trey Quinn; it was catchable but not easy and Quinn couldn’t handle it. A field goal made it 3-0. After that 11-play, 71-yard drive, Smith and most of the rest of the offensive starters left the game. 

— Ten of the 11 regular defenders started the game, the exception being Matt Ioannidis. In his first series in a Redskins uniform, Daron Payne stopped the drive with a sack on third down. After that three-and-out, they weren’t as effective against Sam Darnold on their second possession. The rookie was sharp leading a 12-play, 42-yard field goal drive. 

— The first time Samaje Perine touched the ball, he ran for 30 yards off left tackle, following a nice block from J.P. Holtz, a tight end who was lined up at fullback. Since they released the only fullback on the roster last week, TE as FB is likely to be the plan. Perine then left the game with an ankle injury. He did not return. 

— There were some special teams gaffes in the first half. Dustin Hopkins hit the right upright on a 35-yard field goal try but it went through. On the ensuing kickoff, though, the kick went out of bounds. Later on, Byron Marshall put the ball on the ground on a kickoff return but replay showed it that he was down. So there was one costly miscue and two near-misses. 

— The Redskins backup defensive unit was back on its heels in a second-quarter drive with most of the Jets’ offensive starters in. They ended the drive when Danny Johnson make a good tackle to force a third and one. The Jets went for it and Darnold’s pass was tipped by Deshazor Everett and intercepted by Troy Apke. Tim Settle dominated in the middle, usually matched up against former Redskins center Spencer Long. 

— It was bad news, then good news for rookie WR Cam Sims in the second quarter. First he had a pass in his hands for a first down in the red zone but the ball popped out without him being touched and the pass was picked off. On the Redskins’ next possession he made a nice catch between two defenders for a 27-yard gain on third-and-10. Later in the drive he made a leaping catch in the end zone, but a penalty negated the TD. He has been inconsistent in practice in Richmond and is carrying over. 

— The Redskins had some red zone woes in the first half. The had three shots from there and settled for field goals every time. They also had the situation where Sims had the pass in his hands in the red zone before it popped out for an interception. 

— Long shot Martez Carter got his name on the board with a runs of nine and then 30 yards, showing blazing speed around the corner on both runs. He remains a long shot but speed like that will get you some attention. 

— Third QB Kevin Hogan was able to lead a scoring drive on his first possession but it was done mostly via Carter’s runs and the first application of the new helmet rule in a Redskins’ game this preseason, a flag that went against the Jets. The next two possessions he went two for three for seven yards and the Redskins went three and out both times. 

— The Jets kicked a late field goal to take a 13-12 lead. Hogan had a chance to bring them back and got them into Jets territory. Then Cam Sims made a 20-yard grab to set up a 40-yard field goal attempt. Hopkins hit it as time ran out to give the home team a 15-13 lead. 

— The win doesn’t mean anything but it’s always more fun to win than to lose. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler