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Victor Cruz's fumble comes back to haunt Giants

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) goes up

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) goes up to catch a pass as Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32) tries to deflect the throw during the second half. (Nov. 24, 2013) Credit: AP

Did Dallas and Tony Romo beat the Giants with their drive for the field goal that gave them a 24-21 victory on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, or did the Giants beat themselves with the kind of big mistake that characterized their 0-6 start this season?

Looking back with 20-20 hindsight, a fumbled reception by Victor Cruz that Cowboys safety Jeff Heath returned 50 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead looms large.

Those on the Giants' sideline had an argument that Cruz's forward progress had been stopped, but there was no whistle. Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick practically tore his own arm out of its socket stripping the ball from Cruz before it plopped neatly into Heath's hands.

Asked if the play should have been blown dead earlier, Cruz said, "I don't know. It's a play that happened so quickly. I'm trying to fight for every yard, fight for everything, trying to maximize my yardage, and the ball comes out. Obviously, it happens a little late, but you can't change that. You can't change what the refs see; you can't change what they call."

The Giants' offense beat itself in other ways, settling for two first-half field goals after putting itself in first-and-goal situations. The inability to stick it in the end zone partly was due to the absence of Hakeem Nicks, who was a scratch. Rueben Randle stepped into the starting role.

"It wasn't a big deal for me to step in," Randle said. Asked if he was surprised that Nicks didn't play, Randle shrugged and said, "It's his call. I've got to go out and do what I do."

Without Nicks, Cruz found himself blanketed in the red zone. "On me specifically, they just had a bunch of guys in my area," said Cruz, who had two catches for 27 yards. "They tried to keep two guys on me as much as possible. Everywhere else, I felt like there were running lanes open all game long, and we just had to find them. It was tough when we wanted to throw the ball down there, but we've got to find our creases and find our ways to get the ball in the end zone."

The offense finally came to life in the second half as Eli Manning completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Myers and found backup wideout Louis Murphy Jr. for a 4-yard TD before Andre Brown ran for a two-point conversion to tie it with 4:45 left.

Murphy was responsible for an interception against the Packers last week when he ran the wrong route. "The play called was 'X fade,' " Murphy said. "I ran the route and saw Eli scramble and thought he was going to run it in. But he threw it. I was thinking, 'Let's win a football game.' "

Almost, but it didn't quite work out that way.

New York Sports