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Victor Cruz wins back fans with big game

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) falls across

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) falls across the goal line for a touchdown against Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye (34) in the second quarter of a game, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun

It had been a hard week for Victor Cruz, perhaps his hardest since putting on a Giants uniform.

Although he is in only his fourth season, Cruz is the most popular football player in New York and might even be the area's most beloved sports figure not named Derek Jeter. No matter how you feel about the Giants, it's hard not to love an underdog like Cruz. It's tough not to admire a guy who honors his grandmother after every touchdown by performing a salsa dance in the end zone.

Yet heading into Sunday's game against the Texans, Cruz hadn't danced a whole lot of salsa lately or heard a whole lot of cheers. After a spate of drops in his previous game, some fans had turned on Cruz. For the first time, he heard boos.

You can bet Cruz was thinking about that when he crossed into the end zone with a 26-yard reception to score the first touchdown in what became a 30-17 Giants victory.

Cruz, having grown up in nearby Paterson, New Jersey, has a unique understanding of the nature of New York fans. And he knew if he could win them back early, if he could score in the Giants' no-huddle offense, it would do nothing but help his team.

"This feels good," Cruz said. "Any time you're at home and you get into the end zone and dance a little bit, it's always fun. It's fun for the fans, fun for myself. Any time you are making plays, it boosts your confidence, no matter who you are. It's just something I'm going to build off individually and spread it throughout my team."

Cruz thought he had to help set the tone of the game. He said he knew the Giants had a powerful offense and were much better than they showed in their 0-2 start.

He first gave the fans something to cheer about late in the first quarter, when he turned a short pass up the middle from Eli Manning into a 61-yard gain.

Two possessions later, he scored on his 26-yard catch, his first touchdown since Week 4 last year in Kansas City and his first touchdown at MetLife Stadium since the last game of the 2012 season.

Cruz caught the pass at the Texans' 18, cut outside against cornerback Kareem Jackson and raced to the corner.

Cruz had five catches for 107 yards. Like everyone else on the team, he said he knew just how important it was to get this win.

"Anyone who was here last year knows what 0-6 felt like,'' he said. "We weren't going to let it get there."

New York Sports