NEW ORLEANS -- Nothing changed the momentum the New York Giants have rolling toward their Jan. 2 winner-take-all showdown with the Dallas Cowboys. Last night, the NFC East-leading Giants maintained their one-game edge over Dallas with a methodical 24-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
The Giants' sixth straight victory clinched them at least one home playoff game and ran their record to 11-3.
"We had two games to win, this one and the Cardinals and then we'll invite the Cowboys in for a little game at the Meadowlands," center Bart Oates said. "That was our agenda."
"We're not making any statements. We don't care who's watching or what anybody thinks," added cornerback Mark Collins. "We just go out and win games."
Both the Giants and Saints played true to form. The Giants ran the ball effectively and Phil Simms was at his efficient best, throwing touchdown passes of 9 and 17 yards to Mark Jackson and Howard Cross, respectively.
David Meggett's 75-yard punt return for a TD early in the fourth quarter put the Giants up 24-7 and sealed the victory.
The Saints, who slipped to 7-7 with their seventh loss in nine games and fourth straight at home, were again ineffective behind quarterback Wade Wilson, who left with a knee contusion in the third quarter as the Superdome crowd vented its frustration by cheering his injury, a reaction that coach Jim Mora laced into during a post-game tirade.
"Crazy, crazy, crazy, sick, sick," Mora said. "The most disgusting thing I've ever seen."
Wilson struggled to complete 11 of 19 passes for 148 yards before he left for Mike Buck, who didn't fare any better. On the night, the Saints rushed for just 11 yards; the only thing that seemed to keep them going were trick plays, such as the fake field goal that set up their first touchdown late in the second
New Orleans' defense, while putting some pressure on Simms, missed its usual share of tackles.
"I was pleased with the way we moved the ball. We were able to get it into the end zone early, and that's important when you're in a noisy situation," coach Dan Reeves said.
The Giants did most of what they wanted to accomplish. Five backs combined for 137 rushing yards, and Simms threw for 166 yards on 15-of-23, converting key third-down conversions on the two TD drives.
Meggett's TD return, which Reeves called "the biggest play of the game," was the fifth of his career, the fourth on a punt. He was able to streak past Reggie Freeman and get to the left sideline, where he picked up a block by Jessie Armstead and raced untouched into the end zone.
"A couple of guys on the sideline the punt before said he's due to take one," Simms said of the former Towson State standout. "It was great."
So were the Giants' first two drives. "I thought we did a really solid job in a situation where the noise was the No. 1 concern against a team that had its back to the wall," Simms said. "We played well, we played hard, and we played smart."