Batter up, Victor Cruz!
There may come a key point during Sunday's wild-card game against Atlanta when Cruz will hit another one of his signature, momentum-swinging home runs - or at least the Giants hope so.
"He's had an incredible impact," coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday of Cruz, who shattered the Giants' single-season receiving record with 1,536 yards despite a zero-reception opening game in September. "The plays that have gotten things going have come from a pass from Eli [Manning] to Victor Cruz, and the run after the catch aspect of it ..."
Cruz may not wield a bat, but the Giants receiver has used his surehands and churning legs to generate the NFL equivalent of five grand slams this season: His five touchdown catches of 65 yards or more tied an NFL record. (The Giants are 3-2 in those five games.)
Cruz's first-quarter 74-yarder against the Cowboys last Sunday came on what began as a five-yard completion on third-and-1. Freed by a block from Hakeem Nicks and his own explosive cut down the sideline, Cruz burned two Dallas defenders during a sprint to the end zone.
Cruz has averaged an electrifying 18.7 yards per catch, tops in the league among those with 50 or more.
"He's done a great job making plays on some short throws," Manning said, "making guys miss and doing a lot of the work on his own."
Against the Falcons (10-6), Manning's connections with Cruz and Nick (1,192 yards) will test the ability of Atlanta's 20th-ranked pass defense to prevent more blastoffs in both receivers' playoff debuts.