The timeline for Rueben Randle's week began with television commentator Cris Collinsworth questioning his work ethic during the Giants' loss a week ago Sunday in Philadelphia. On Wednesday, he faced a media inquisition on the subject. On Thursday, quarterback Eli Manning called the rookie wide receiver from LSU in for a private post-practice meeting.
The scrutiny was especially intense because the Giants were going into Sunday's Cleveland game without injured wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden. But Randle worked through the turmoil and delivered six catches for 82 yards in the Giants' 41-27 victory over the Browns.
Victor Cruz came away with three touchdown receptions. But Randle's 36-yard catch set up a touchdown to tie the score at 17, and he drew a pass-interference penalty on Browns cornerback Buster Skrine that set up a field goal on the final play of the first half for a 27-17 Giants lead.
Not bad for a kid who had one 4-yard catch in the first four games of his NFL career.
"I guess it just proves what I can do," Randle said. "With all the doubt, I just wanted to prove myself to my coaching staff and to the team. That was all that mattered."
Although Randle insisted he wasn't worried about commentary from outside the Giants' training facility, he had to wonder if Collinsworth, a former NFL receiver, was repeating something he heard from inside the organization.
"I mean, I can't focus on that," Randle said. "It's 'he said, she said.' You know the player you are and the ability you have. You've got to be confident in yourself."
The most important words Randle heard all week came from Manning, who texted an invitation to join him as he watched game tapes Thursday evening. "We went in there and watched a lot of the blitzes and third-down things just to be on the same page," Randle said. "It was just me and Eli . . . It prepared me for what Cleveland was going to bring to the table."
One thing the Browns brought was Skrine, a second-year cornerback with a bull's eye on his jersey. Manning threw the ball in his direction six times on the Giants' first touchdown drive, finally hitting Cruz for a 3-yard score after a play-action fake. Another play-action fake froze Skrine and left Cruz wide-open on a 7-yard TD for a 24-17 lead.
"We were throwing his way a little bit," Cruz said. "I think it was just throwing to the open man. Eli doesn't . . . at least, he won't tell us he likes to pick on certain people. But as long as you're getting open, he's going to find you."
Randle, too, beat Skrine several times when they were matched up. "Once you've got a rhythm going and you see that you're knocking down the confidence of the DB, you've got to keep going at him," Randle said.
Asked if this was his "breakout" game, Randle showed he's a fast learner.
"It's a confidence-builder," he said. "But you can't live off of one week. There's a tough San Francisco defense next week, so you've got to prepare."