EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Peyton Hillis felt like Roy Hobbs on Monday night.
"It seems like the movie 'The Natural,'" Hillis said after his Giants debut. "Where he's out of the game for 10 years, he comes back and he starts doing well for the team. It just feels like that."
Hillis may not have knocked the lights out at MetLife Stadium, but his season debut went well as he totaled 81 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' 23-7 win over the Vikings. Hillis, signed Wednesday, carried the ball 18 times and also caught five passes out of the backfield.
"It feels like I've been beat around here for the past couple years and really never getting an opportunity," Hillis said. "When I got this call, when I thought my career was over, I went out and was like I'm going to give it all I can and see what happens. I felt that I did OK."
With David Wilson and Andre Brown sidelined, and Brandon Jacobs nursing a hamstring injury that forced him to miss Monday's game, the Giants signed Hillis, a former 1,000-yard rusher with the Browns.
Hillis, who spent training camp with the Buccaneers, said he had a three-week period when he believed his career was over before the Giants called him.
Despite having less than a week to prepare, Hillis started and received the majority of the carries. He only rushed for 36 yards, but did some solid work in the passing game as he tied the team-high by catching five passes for 45 yards. Hillis had a nice play in the fourth quarter when he spun off a defender and picked up 9 yards for a first down.
In the third quarter, he scored his first touchdown since Dec. 2, 2012, when he rushed in from 1 yard out to give the Giants a 17-7 lead. He outrushed Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, who had 13 carries for 28 yards on the night.
"It was a great feeling. Something that I needed for a long time," Hillis said of the touchdown. "It meant a lot to me. It felt like I was achieving something on the field that I haven't done in a very long time."
Hillis' role could lessen next week against Philadelphia if Jacobs returns, but he's looking forward to showing what he can do in the upcoming weeks. He admitted his legs felt like "Jell-O" on Monday due to him not having much time to get back in football shape.
"I still believe if you give me a couple more weeks and I get the grasp of the offense and get my legs underneath me, I can show you some glimpses," Hillis said. "I just need some time and hopefully I'll have that time to be here and show that."
Hillis wasn't the only Giant to get his first carry of the season on Monday. Rookie seventh-rounder Michael Cox rushed 11 times for 23 yards. Cox was announced before the game as the starter but wasn't in for the first snap, although he had the first carry of the game.
"I got a lot to work on," Cox said. "Hopefully just me being in the game, giving the coaches more confidence in me, more chances in the future."