Andre Brown of the Giants runs the ball after a...

Andre Brown of the Giants runs the ball after a catch in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 10, 2013) Credit: Mike Stobe

To understand just how unlikely the Giants' two most important players were in Sunday's 24-20 win over the Raiders, consider the set of circumstances they overcame to get here:

One of them blew out his Achilles in his first NFL training camp with the Giants in 2009, bounced around between four teams in 2010, spent the entire 2011 season on the Giants' practice squad, broke his leg late last season and broke it again this past summer in training camp.

The other tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the Giants' 2011 preseason, the second time he needed reconstructive surgery. A year later, he tore it again, with his chances of a comeback remote at best. Only one other player in NFL history had come back from three ACL surgeries.

But both of them have made remarkable comebacks, and both were major factors as the Giants kept their season alive.

Running back Andre Brown and cornerback Terrell Thomas, who share a bond in perseverance and hope, proved invaluable in the Giants' third straight win. Brown, playing for the first time this season after reinjuring his leg in the preseason, rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown. Thomas, who missed the 2011 and 2012 seasons after two ACL surgeries, had a momentum-swinging 65-yard interception return in the third quarter to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Both men have spent countless hours in the trainer's room desperately hoping to overcome the odds, and both were rewarded for their determination at a time when their team needed them most.

You want to give your kids some examples of how it's done right in sports and in life? Tell them about these two.

"Perseverance does pay off, and he's a guy who has persevered," coach Tom Coughlin said of Brown. "I don't think you can say enough about him, from one game back. He hadn't been hit, literally. That was my main concern."

After Brown got hurt in the last preseason game, the Giants placed him on injured reserve with a designation to return. By rule, he couldn't play in the first eight games. The Giants' preference would have been to ease him back into the lineup after such a long layoff. But injuries to David Wilson and Brandon Jacobs left them with little choice but to use Brown as their workhorse running back.

Coughlin joked during the week that he planned to give Brown 40 carries. Afterward, he corrected himself, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "I told you 40 carries the other day, and I certainly didn't mean to mislead you," he said. "It was 30."

Brown, who said he felt about as sore as you'd expect a guy to feel after that kind of pounding, quipped: "I carried it 30 times? Felt like 50." He said he was headed home to sit in a cold tub -- but not before taking a moment to reflect on the gratification of his return.

"You just have to go ahead and move forward and remain positive," he said. "Don't look back. If I look back at all the injuries I've had, I probably wouldn't be here right now. Just move forward and keep working."

Thomas' comeback has been every bit as impressive. Only he and Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis have made it back after three ACL surgeries. After being named NFC defensive player of the week for a sack and forced fumble against the Eagles, Thomas had his first pick since late in the 2010 season.

Late in the third quarter, after noticing the Raiders were in a formation he had studied on video, he jumped in front of Terrelle Pryor's intended target and raced 65 yards to the 5. Two plays later, Brown scored from the 1, falling to his knees and pointing to the sky. The PAT gave the Giants a 21-20 lead.

"I just thank God for putting me in this position, giving me the grace to come back from three ACL surgeries and playing as fast as I am," Thomas said. "It was a long two years sitting at home watching the game. I'm happy just to play football. I'm human. Yeah, of course you have self-doubt. But I put my faith in the man above and I keep working, and everything worked out."

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