New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz reacts after making...

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz reacts after making a reception during the first the first half on Jan. 15, 2012. Credit: AP

Victor Cruz was listing the positive qualities of the Packers' secondary for reporters on Wednesday, from forcing turnovers to playing hard. Then he slipped in one of their attributes that may be a positive only for the Giants.

"They do a good job," Cruz said, "of giving up some long plays as well."

Cruz and Eli Manning hope the Packers keep up that good work Sunday, because an offense once defined by the big play has been lacking it recently.

The deep pass is something that has been missing from the Giants' offense for the last month. Since the game-winning 77-yard touchdown against the Redskins, the Giants have had only four completions of at least 20 yards in three games. In the last two games, they've had two, none for more than 33. Manning's longest pass against the Bengals was for 16 yards, his shortest longest pass in a game since 2006.

By contrast, the Giants had eight passing plays of at least 20 yards against the Bucs in one game earlier this season.

A risk-taking Packers secondary that sometimes includes up to three rookies could be just the thing to get them back in the big-play business.

"Some of their defenses that they play give guys the ability to be aggressive, to read things, jump some routes, and they do a good job of getting interceptions," Manning said. "It also gives them opportunities to get some throws down the field. If you can protect, have time to let routes develop, there are some possibilities to get the ball down the field."

If the Giants are without Domenik Hixon, rookie Rueben Randle likely will become the team's third receiver, and he is more of a downfield threat than Hixon.

Not all big pass plays are big passes, of course. Hakeem Nicks and Cruz typically are able to turn shorter passes into long gains by running after the catch. Nicks, though, has not had a catch of more than 30 yards since the second week of the season. Against the Bengals just before the bye, Nicks caught nine passes, his most since that game against the Bucs, in which he injured his knee. But they went for only 75 yards. His 8.3 yards per catch were his lowest of the season and tied for the fifth-lowest single-game average in his career.

Now that Nicks is feeling healthy enough to run his routes and catch passes, he said this week that his next step toward a full recovery from foot and knee injuries is to start gaining yards with the ball in his hands.

"When I self-scout for myself, I feel like I need to start doing that some more," he said. "I think maybe earlier in the season, it would kind of hinder me a little bit because I couldn't really catch and burst right away due to the knee and the foot or just not trusting it to make a solid plant on it at full speed. I think this time off and with this schedule we have, I'm ready to get after it."

Nicks got after it last year in the playoff win over the Packers. He caught passes of 66, 37 and 29 yards against them on that day, the 37-yarder coming on a halftime Hail Mary pass. If the Giants have the ball in that same position Sunday, the Packers likely will be more prepared for a deep pass.

As for the rest of the game, well, the Giants see plenty of opportunities to go deep without the clock ticking down to zeros.

"I hope so," said Cruz, who hasn't caught a touchdown pass since the Redskins game. "We've got some pretty good calls dialed up to move the ball whether it be short or down the field, so hopefully we can get that back going a little bit and get back to making some big plays."

Notes & quotes: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), DT Linval Joseph (knee) and Hixon (ankle) all missed a second straight practice Thursday . . . With WR David Douglas signed by the Bucs off the Giants' practice squad, the Giants replaced him with Dan DePalma . . . LB Clay Matthews (hamstring) did not practice for the Packers on Thursday. WRs Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen) and Donald Driver (thumb) were limited.

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