East Rutherford, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - Peyton Hillis hadn't been in the Metropolitan area since posing for the 2012 Madden cover.
From the cover boy to jobless in less than three years, Hillis returned to the national spotlight on Monday and helped the New York Giants pick up their first win of the season.
Hillis ran for a touchdown and Eli Manning didn't throw an interception for the first time this season in the New York Giants' 23-7 triumph over the sloppy Minnesota Vikings.
Adrian Peterson, the reigning MVP and 2,000-yard rusher last season, was held to 28 yards rushing five days after the funeral of his 2-year-old son.
"It was tough sledding. We couldn't get anything established up front," Peterson said.
The 27-year-old Hillis tallied 36 yards rushing on 18 carries, while hauling in five passes for 45 yards for New York (1-6). Manning was 23-of-39 for 200 yards and a touchdown. He came in leading the NFL with 15 interceptions.
"I sure do feel good winning," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said.
The Giants signed Hillis Wednesday as insurance to an unsettled backfield. Starting running back David Wilson is out with a neck injury he suffered Oct. 6. A timetable for his return hasn't been set. Brandon Jacobs, re-signed last month, suffered a hamstring injury in last Thursday's loss to the Bears. He was inactive Monday.
Hillis hasn't approached the numbers he put up in his breakout 2010 campaign with the Brown where he ran for 1,177 yards and 11 scores with 477 yards and two touchdowns receiving.
After a disastrous 2011 season where he accumulated just 587 yards and three scores on the ground, Hillis relocated to Kansas City. He struggled for the Chiefs in 2012 before inking a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last summer. The Bucs released him in September.
The newly-acquired Josh Freeman was 20-of-53 for 190 yards with an interception for Minnesota (1-5). The Kansas State product and former 2009 first-round pick began the year as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starter, but struggled over his first three games before being benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon.
Freeman's release in early October came one day after Sports Illustrated reported that he had been fined twice by the Buccaneers in the past month for conduct detrimental to the team. One was for an unauthorized interview with ESPN and the other for skipping at least one team meeting.
The 25-year-old signal-caller got the starting nod over Christian Ponder, who started the first three games. He suffered a rib injury in Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns. Matt Cassel started the next two tilts under center.
New York's opening possession was the longest of the NFL this season (9:36), but the Giants settled for a 35-yard Josh Brown after Manning floated a pass for the back right corner of the end zone that was just out of the reach of Hakeem Nicks. The trek covered 68 yards in 17 plays.
Marcus Sherels returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown late in the first, but the Giants tallied the final 20 points of the contest.
Manning hit Rueben Randle for a 24-yard score early in the second and Blair Walsh's 53-yard field goal attempt on Minnesota's ensuing touch came up short.
The Giants took a 10-7 edge into the break.
The Vikings maneuvered the ball down to the New York 23 on their first offensive sequence of the second half, but under duress and with Shaun Rogers draped around his leg, Freeman floated a pass down the right seam that was picked off by Antrel Rolle. A Randle fumble on a punt prior to the pick kept the Minnesota drive alive.
Later in the frame, another Minnesota miscue led to a Hillis 1-yard TD plunge.
After catching a punt, Sherels made a move up field, but stumbled to the ground for the untouched Sherels to cough up the ball. Zac DeOssie made the recovery at the Minnesota 3-yard line. Hillis plowed in two plays later to make it 17-7.
Brown capped an elongated 16-play, 75-yard drive with a 23-yard field goal early in the fourth, and split the uprights from 36 yards out after Sharrif Floyd fumbled a pooch kickoff at the Minnesota 18.
The Giants outgained the Vikings, 257-206 ... New York has allowed three punt returns for touchdowns this season ... The Giants were 7-of-19 on third down, while Minnesota finished 7-of-18 in those situations ... Minnesota has yet to win a game in the United States this year.