Tom Coughlin had an inkling.
Or maybe it was just a hope.
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"I felt like, you know, for a couple weeks he's been coming on and appearing more and more like himself and I told him I thought he'd have a big game tonight," Coughlin said of Rueben Randle, the Giants wide receiver who had been conspicuously missing from the team's offense through two games but showed up big-time in Thursday's 32-21 win over Washington. "I'm happy for Rueben. Let's hope he comes out of this thing and can give us more of the same."
Randle came into the game having caught just three passes in two games. He was targeted only twice in Sunday's loss to Atlanta, dropping one of them. On Thursday, he hauled in seven passes on seven targets for 116 yards and a 41-yard touchdown that allowed the Giants to exhale in the fourth quarter.
"It's great as a player for your coach to have confidence in you," Randle said after the game. "You've got to step up to the plate and make the best out of opportunities when they come, and that's what I tried to do tonight."
Randle's role likely will change by the next game. Victor Cruz is expected back, and while no one anticipates Cruz playing a full allotment of snaps right off the bat, his presence will alter Randle's place. There may be fewer actual opportunities in terms of plays, but there also could be more practical opportunities as secondaries are spread thinner than they have been.
It wasn't a perfect night for Randle. He muffed an onside kick that eventually was recovered by teammate Shane Vereen. Then, on a second onside kick attempt by Washington, the ball went through his hands before going out of bounds.
"The first one came in a little hot," he said. "I was going to let it go by and it kind of got under my foot a little bit. The second took a hot hop on me and led me a little out of bounds."
But the important part was the offense and getting someone else involved as a wide receiver. Thursday was the first time since Week 10 last season against the 49ers that a wide receiver other than Odell Beckham Jr. led the team in yardage (although Vereen, a running back, had 2 more yards than Beckham in the opener against Dallas).
Randle seemed slowed by the knee injury that sidelined him for several weeks of training camp. Coughlin pointed to that missed time as well as his recovery from the injury as a possible reason for his slow start in the regular season. In recent days, though, Coughlin said he noticed a difference.
"I think he was running very, very well," Coughlin said. "His patterns in practice seem to be good. I liked the way he was in pregame so I felt he was going to have a nice night."
It would have been a good night. What turned it into a great night was the touchdown catch, a juggling play on a daring third-and-10 call with 3:29 remaining. If the Giants didn't score there, they would have handed the ball back to Washington up by 11 points after a three-and-out.
"It's kind of hard to see the ball," Randle said. "I kind of lost it in the lights, but I was able to stick with it and make a play."
Just like he was able to stick with it through his slow start.
"It was frustrating at times, but I don't think it was hard for me to keep my spirits up," he said. "It's a long season. My job is to stick with it no matter what the situation may be and make a play."
He finally did.