EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Andre Brown carried the ball just two times in his first three NFL seasons.
Yet on Sunday, he carried the New York Giants to a much-needed victory.
The 25-year-old running back emerged off the bench to rush 13 times for 71 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, capped off by a 2-yarder for the game-winning touchdown in the Giants' wild 41-34 win.
"My role today? I was just thinking of going out there and making a play on special teams," Brown said. "And [coach Tom Coughlin] just came to me and said, 'Hey, you're up. So just go ahead and make this happen.' And I took advantage of the opportunity."
The call came about midway through the second quarter, when starter Ahmad Bradshaw headed to the locker room for an X-ray on his neck. (Bradshaw did not return to the game and the Giants provided no update on his status afterward.)
Instead of turning to rookie first-round pick David Wilson, who fumbled on just his second NFL carry in Week 1 against the Cowboys, Coughlin put the ball in Brown's hands.
His first carry didn't go so well -- behind the left guard for minus-1 yards. But the next time he took a handoff, he burst up the middle for a gain of 23.
"He ran hard," right guard Chris Snee said. "He found a hole, and he hit it. There was no dancing. Just an opportunity for a guy who normally wouldn't get the carries, and ... he took full advantage of it."
Brown's biggest plays came during the Giants' dramatic fourth-quarter comeback. First there was the two-point conversion run that tied the score at 27 with 6:59 left. Then there was the TD run that put the Giants on top with 34 seconds remaining -- which was preceded by Brown falling down on his own at the 2-yard line on the previous play, so the Giants could milk some more time off the clock.
"I heard Eli (Manning) say, 'Get down!' And I was like, all right, I've gotta get down," Brown said. "And then he was like, 'You can go ahead and score the next play.'"
"He did very well," Coughlin said of Brown. "I don't know what it exactly looks like from a pass-protection standpoint, but he did catch the ball well and run with the ball and protect the ball, (and) he's the one who knelt down there and didn't score."
Brown was in danger of being cut just over two weeks ago, when the Giants pared down their roster at the end of the preseason. Instead, the Giants jettisoned veteran running back D.J. Ware, who had spent the past five seasons with the team.
They held on to Brown, originally the team's fourth-round draft choice in 2009 out of NC State, who has been waived eight times by five different teams and spent last season on the Giants' practice squad. And he rewarded them in short order.
"It feels awesome," said Brown, who needed to be hooked up to an IV after the game to replenish his fluids. "I can't wait to go home and watch the game. I haven't even looked at my phone yet. My mom has probably left 18 messages. I'm just really looking forward to going and looking at the tape, and looking at what I can improve, and getting ready for next week."
Next week comes quickly -- the Giants face the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.
And with Bradshaw's injury, Brown better prepare for an encore performance.