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Cruz sets pair of Giants records

Victor Cruz of the Giants celebrates a long

Victor Cruz of the Giants celebrates a long completion in the third quarter in front of the Jets bench. (Dec. 24, 2011) Photo Credit: David Pokress

Even in his own stadium, Victor Cruz felt like the enemy.

He watched as Jets fans furiously waved their white towels in the MetLife Stadium stands and cheered loudly for the home team to sustain its second-quarter lead.

But it didn't take long for Cruz to swing the momentum in the Giants' favor.

The slot receiver put on a one-man show during the Giants' 29-14 victory over their stadium rivals, scoring on a 99-yard touchdown reception -- the longest play in Giants history and the longest touchdown pass against the Jets in franchise history.

Cruz finished with 164 yards on three catches, surpassing Amani Toomer as the team's all-time single-season leader in receiving yards. With one game remaining, Cruz has 1,358 to Toomer's 1,343.

"That's amazing, man," Cruz said of the milestone. "It's always been a childhood dream to come in and make a football team, let alone break a record. It's just a surreal moment for me. They actually let me know on the field and I was like, 'No way.' . . . And then they showed the stats on the [big screen] and I was like, 'Wow. I just did it.' It was just amazing, man. I'm proud of my team for inspiring me, for believing in me. It's just a great feeling."

The Jets took a 7-0 lead on their first drive of the game before Lawrence Tynes' 21-yard field goal (after a 29-yard reception by Cruz that put the ball at the 2-yard line) made it 7-3 in the second quarter. Then the Jets seemed to catch a break when T.J. Conley punted the ball 49 yards and special-teamer Ellis Lankster downed it at the Giants' 1-yard line.

But Cruz changed the Giants' luck with one jaw-dropping play.

On third-and-10 at the 1, Giants quarterback Eli Manning looked for an open man as he stood on the "T'' in the Jets logo near the back of the end zone. He barely got the throw off before being hit by linebacker Aaron Maybin but found Cruz on a hook route.

Cruz caught the ball at the 11 behind cornerback Kyle Wilson, who got a hand on Cruz but missed the tackle. Cruz then quickly changed directions and sidestepped Antonio Cromartie, who also whiffed on the tackle as he fell to his knees.

Cruz could only see "green grass" ahead of him as he took off down the right sideline. Safety Eric Smith -- the Jets' last hope -- dived at Cruz's feet from behind at the Giants' 47, but Cruz leaped over Smith's outstretched hands, landed at the Jets' 49 and was gone.

"It happened so fast, I didn't know who it was, I don't know what I did," said Cruz, who added that it was his first 99-yard play at any level. "I just tried to jump over whoever was there and just go to the end zone.

"I knew we needed a momentum-changer, man. And I was just glad I could be the person to do that."

Said Manning: "I was hoping maybe he'd fall forward and get the first down in that situation. But he made two guys miss and then showed a little speed. I thought the safety had an angle on him near the sideline but he ran right by everybody, and a huge play in the game right there.

"We were down and backed up. If we have to punt right there, the Jets get great field position with a chance to score before halftime and take a pretty big lead. That flip-flopped everything."

In the days leading up to Saturday's showdown, the war of words between the two camps had grown contentious. Referring to Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, Cruz said "teams aren't really scared anymore" before adding, "He's got to earn his money this year." (Though Cruz said he was angered that the media "kind of switched around" his words to make it seem as though he were "talking bad about Revis.")

Revis had responded: "I don't even know who this guy is."

It's safe to say he knows Cruz's name now.

"I think he has a slight clue," the second-year receiver from UMass said with a smile.

Cruz broke Toomer's single-season record in the third quarter on a 36-yard catch down the right sideline. That reception set up a 28-yard run by Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw's 14-yard touchdown run, which gave the Giants a 17-7 lead.

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