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Giants hurt by an epidemic of dropped passes

Rueben Randle #82 of the Giants is unable

Rueben Randle #82 of the Giants is unable to catch a pass from Eli Manning #10 during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 14, 2014 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Mike Stobe

If the Giants have one player who has been a constant source of positive vibes, it's wide receiver Victor Cruz, the touchdown salsa king. But instead of shouting his name -- "Cruuuuuuzzz!!!'' -- some in the MetLife crowd of 78,344 on Sunday directed an unfamiliar sound his way during the Giants' 25-14 loss to Arizona.

After the second of three straight dropped passes in the fourth quarter, the fans sent the Giants wideout on a "boos Cruz.'' That came as a shock to Cruz, who said of the jeers, "I [couldn't] care less.''

The boos likely were related to Cruz's midweek comments suggesting that quarterback Eli Manning and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo should target him and fellow wideout Rueben Randle more. Manning did that as the Giants built a 14-10 third-quarter lead, completing five passes to Cruz for 60 yards and another four to Randle for 39, including a 7-yard touchdown in the final minute of the second quarter.

But Cruz dropped a third-down pass that led to a punt that the Cardinals' Ted Ginn Jr. returned 71 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. The Giants fumbled the ensuing kickoff to set up a field goal that gave the Cardinals a 22-14 lead.

So when Cruz then let a difficult pass deep down the right sideline skip off his hands, the home fans vented their frustration. Cruz dropped the ball again on the next play.

Speaking of the first drop before Ginn's punt return for the go-ahead score, Cruz said: "Any ball in my direction I've got to bring in. I've got to be able to make the play for the team whenever Eli looks my way.''

The sideline pass that ignited the boos was a tough catch because Cruz was fully extended. "Yeah, they're difficult catches any time you're running full speed, trying to get away from defenders, and Eli is putting it in a place where only you can catch it,'' Cruz said. "The degree of difficulty is definitely high, but it's definitely a ball I've caught before.''

Randle ignited cheers in the second quarter when he shook off Patrick Peterson, the NFL's highest-paid cornerback, to pull in his touchdown pass with one hand. "It was actually a run play, and we tagged the fade to it,'' Randle said. "In practice all week, we stressed the fade ball, and I was just trying to get open to make a play.''

But with 2:48 left and the Giants facing third-and-6 at their 19, Randle went deep down the left side and Manning hit his hands. But the ball wound up on the turf when cornerback Antonio Cromartie hit him.

"[Cromartie] got his hand in there a little bit,'' Randle said, "but still, I should have caught it.''

Did the pressure of falling behind in the fourth quarter contribute to the drops? "I think it's something you should thrive on,'' Randle said. "That's why they pay us as receivers.''

New York Sports