The big kickoff return has seldom been an integral component of the Giants' offensive repertoire.
Consider that in an 88-year history that includes 1,213 regular season games, the Giants have returned 19 kickoffs for touchdowns, or one every 63.8 games. The Giants once went 20 years (1972-92) without a kickoff return touchdown. They have 10 such scores since the 1970 merger, tying them with Cincinnati for the third-fewest – behind Denver (5) and Miami (8) - in that span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. (The Giants also have two postseason kickoff return touchdowns, both by Ron Dixon in 2000.)
The Giants have played 68 regular season and nine postseason games since their last kickoff return touchdown, a 74-yarder by Domenik Hixon against New England on Dec. 29, 2007.
But the Giants' return game has been jolted forward by David Wilson, the team's first-round draft choice this year. Wilson hasn't scored a touchdown yet, but his prowess at running back kickoffs suggests it could happen very soon.
Sunday night in Philadelphia, Wilson returned six kickoffs for 217 yards, a 36.2-yard average. The 217 yards were the most in the NFL this season and the third-highest single-game total in Giants history. Wilson was the first Giants player to return at least six kickoffs in a game and average at least 36 yards per runback. The last NFL player to do it was Baltimore's David Reed, who averaged 38.8 yards on six returns at Houston on Dec. 13, 2010.
Reed's average was boosted by a 103-yard return for a touchdown. Wilson's best was a 53-yarder, the longest by a Giant since Hixon had a 68-yard return at New Orleans on Oct. 18, 2009. Wilson added a 45-yarder and was the first Giant with two returns that long in a game since Hixon against the Saints three years ago.
Wilson's 30.2-yard average on 13 returns is third in the NFL. The last Giant to lead the league was Willie Ponder in 2004, when he averaged 26.9 yards a return.
Last year, the Giants finished 22nd in the NFL, with an average kickoff return of 23.3 yards. They are currently sixth with an average of 27.2 yards (that includes an average of 14.0 yards on the three returns by someone other than Wilson.) It's the Giants' highest ranking since they finished fourth in 2005.
With Wilson handling the ball, the Giants' kickoff returns are certainly trending upward.
Now let's see if he can score.
*Eli Manning's 309 passing yards Sunday increased his career total to 28,899. He passed Hall of Famer Len Dawson (28,711) and Rich Gannon (28,742) to move into 40th place on the NFL's career list. Just ahead of him is Brad Johnson (29,054).
*Manning's 1,320 passing yards place him second in the NFL, behind only Drew Brees' 1,350.
*With two touchdown passes against the Eagles, Manning has now thrown for 16 scores in Lincoln Financial Field, twice as many as his total in any other road venue. Manning has thrown eight touchdown passes in three different venues: Cowboys Stadium, FedEx Field and CenturyLink Field in Seattle. He threw seven in Texas Stadium. Manning threw 67 touchdown passes in Giants Stadium and has thrown 32 in MetLife Stadium.
*In Philadelphia, the Giants fell to 20-8 in games in which Manning was not sacked.
*Bear Pascoe became the 23rd different player to catch a regular-season touchdown pass from Manning. Pascoe was already one of the seven players with a postseason touchdown reception of a Manning pass.
*Four Giants receivers – Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Ramses Barden and Domenik Hixon – have gained more than 100 yards in a game this season. The Giants last had four different 100-yard receivers in 2003, when the players involved were Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Jeremy Shockey and David Tyree. This is the first time the Giants have had four 100-yard receivers in the first four weeks of a season.
*Cruz leads the NFL with 32 receptions, one more than St. Louis' Danny Amendola. He also tops the league with 11 catches on third down, also one ahead of Amendola. Cruz's 388 yards are the league's fifth-highest total.
*The Giants did not force a turnover in Philadelphia. They have lost their last six regular-season games in which they did not have a takeaway, a streak that began on Oct. 18, 2009 at New Orleans. They did, however, defeat Atlanta in a 2011 NFC Wild Card Game without forcing a turnover. The last time they won a regular-season game without a takeaway was Dec. 21, 2008 vs. Carolina.
*Some longtime statistical trends did not hold up in the Giants' 19-17 loss to the Eagles. The Giants are now 51-5 under Tom Coughlin when they hold the opposition under 20 points. Coughlin is 98-20 in such games in his career.
In addition, the Giants outscored Philadelphia in the second half, 14-12. They are 58-9 when they outscore the opposition after halftime under Coughlin, who is 103-27 in his career when his teams do so.
*The Giants this week host the 0-4 Cleveland Browns. Since the merger, they are 8-3 against teams that entered the game 0-4 or worse. That includes a victory last season over the 0-6 Miami Dolphins.
*The Giants are first in the NFL in punt coverage, allowing an average return of just 3.1 yards. Last year they were 17th, allowing an average return of 9.9 yards.
*Lawrence Tynes is third in the NFL with 43 points, one behind co-leaders Stephen Gostkowski of New England and Jason Hanson of Detroit.