Either the 'Madden curse' has worn off or the Giants are really desperate

Published Oct. 25, 2013 5:02 p.m. EDT

A long time ago, in a land far away, Peyton Hillis was on top of the world.

Remember when he launched to "Madden '12" coverboy fame after rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Browns? It seems like it was so long ago. Well, maybe it was, 2010 to be exact.

After injuries and an awful showing on the field (coupled with a string of questionable decisions off the field) in 2011, the Browns cut ties with Hillis. He signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs in 2012, then landed on Tampa Bay's roster this season before getting cut without ever playing a snap. Peyton Hillis was a man on the streets. Then, something crazy happened...

(By Tom Canavan of the Associated Press)

The New York Giants normally would have had plenty of time to get halfback Peyton Hillis ready for the rigors of the regular season.

There would be at least a couple of weeks of practice, a few carries in a game and eventually the chance to carry the load. This isn't one of those times for the Giants (1-6).

With David Wilson (neck) and Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) sidelined, Hillis is the Giants' running game, ready or not.

Signed last week, Hillis was forced to run 18 times and handle the majority of snaps in the Giants 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.

The bruises on his back Friday were evidence of the pounding, and Sunday he'll have to face Philadelphia (3-4).

"I expect that it (soreness) is going to be here for a couple more weeks but I have to work through it and try to produce," Hillis said after practice.

Having Hillis carry the load this week might be pushing it. While he was on Tampa Bay's roster for the first few weeks of the season, he didn't play. His carries on Monday were his first this season.

Jacobs, who was sidelined for the Vikings' game, tweaked his hamstring late in the fourth quarter against the Bears. He had been used sparingly after being signed in September and was injured on a night he carried 22 times. Prior to that, he had 22 carries in four games.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride knows he is asking a lot from Hillis, but he doesn't have many options. There are only three healthy running backs on the roster, including fullback John Conner and rookie halfback Michael Cox, who got his first 11 carries of his career on Monday and his inexperience showed.

The other thing working in Hillis' favor is knowing the Bucs' offense. It was put in by former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan and much of the terminology is the same.

"That certainly expedited the learning curve a little bit, but not everybody could have done what he did. I think the thing that was really impressive was the physicality that he brought to the game," Gilbride said of Hillis, who ran for 1,177 with the Browns in 2010. "He turned north-south on a couple of those catches. It's something we need as an offense. It's nice to be finesse. It's nice to throw the ball, but it's nice to show that physical prowess, too."

The 27-year-old Hillis believes he can play better. He was slow hitting some holes.

"I think that, especially me, when you get in the groove of things and start going through it bit-by-bit, day-by-day and week-by-week, you get slowly better," said Hillis, who ran for 36 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 45 more. "I expect to do that. I expect that this Sunday is going to be a lot better for me, too."

The other impressive job that Hillis did was to pick up the blitzes coming at Eli Manning on third down.

"He's a pro," guard Kevin Boothe said. "I only knew of him as a fan of football and watching him play throughout his years. To see him come in there and give it his all was big."

The job will be tougher this week. The Eagles limited New York to 53 yards rushing on 17 carries three weeks ago in a 36-21 win at MetLife Stadium.

Conner, who was signed by the Giants on Sept. 25 after Henry Hynoski was lost for the season, played on special teams that day along with Cox. Hillis was home after being released by the Bucs earlier that week.

On Sunday, the three will be the Giants backfield.

"It's strange how things happen," Conner said. "Some guys fall down, other are hurt and other guys have to step up."

Hillis did that last week in the Giants first win of the year.

"They threw him in there to the wolves and he did a great job," Conner said. "He took the challenge and handled it."