Last week, New York Giants Victor Cruz "gave himself up" in a crucial play which led to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Yesterday, the wide-out gave the ball up during a last minute play-- which led to a Seattle Seahawks pick-six score in a crushing 36-25 loss in the Meadowlands.
The unheralded Cruz ultimately controlled the outcome of yesterday's game by making spectacular tipped catches and then knocking a ball into the hands of the opponents as well.
It was Victor Cruz Bobble-Hands Day at MetLife Stadium yesterday.
The undrafted Cruz seems to have a real knack for making the big play.
The Giants trailed, 29-25, when Giants QB Eli Manning connected on two consecutive passes of 41 and 19 yards to Cruz which set up a first-and-goal from the Seattle five-yard line with 1:27 left. A false start by Will Beatty pushed the Giants back to the 10.
On the next play, Manning threw the ball to Cruz, who was in the vicinity of four-- count 'em-- Seattle defenders. Cruz fell down and tipped the ball off the hands of strong-safety Kam Chancelor who bounced it into the waiting arms of cornerback Brandon Browner who raced 94 yards to put the game out of reach.
Manning's ill-advised throw broke up what could have been the third straight fourth-quarter come-back for the Giants.
Cruz had an All-Pro day after catching six passes in last week's win in Arizona. The Paterson, N.J. native finished up yesterday's game with eight catches for a career-high 161 yards including an incredible 68-yard bobble-and-twist TD catch in double coverage.
Manning threw for a career high 420 yards and three TD's and kept the Giants in the game but also committed four turnovers. It looked like the Eli of old when the Giants got into the red-zone.
Head coach Tom Coughlin pinned the blame on himself but also sat Manning in the corner.
"The sloppiness of the game, the turnovers... you're not going to win football games when you're handing people the ball," said Coughlin.
About Manning's poor decisions in the red zone, the coach was more direct.
"You can't throw an interception right there," he said "You just can't do it."
Granted, two of Manning's INT's were deflected by his receivers into the hands of Seahawks players. A constant rally-killer that seems to have been the bane of Manning's last couple of seasons.
Cruz is playing beyond any one's expectations this season and, when combined with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, gives the Giants a real 1-2-3 punch. If only Cruz could control the ball more deftly. For every acrobatic play, there seems to be a dangerous bobble or a fumble.
"As soon as I went to grip it [the ball], I got hit. It bobbled up in the air," said Cruz of the last minute pick-six. "I knew it was all downhill from there, because there were two guys there and I knew one of them was going to pick it off."
Browner's game-buster has to take a lot of the wind out of the Giants sails.
With the Philadelphia Eagles losing and the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins idle, the G-Men had a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the NFC East and put some distance between them and their rivals. Too bad they couldn't pull another fourth quarter Houdini act.
The Giants finally found out what it's like to be on the losing end of a come-from-behind win and doing it in grand style has to sting a little more.
Seattle came into the game averaging a measly 254 yards per game but shredded the Giants defense for 424 yards-- half of them with their second-string QB Charlie Whitehurst at the controls.
Ironically, it's that same Giants defense which kept them in the game. They registered six sacks and three interceptions.
Maybe the Giants modest win streak was a desert mirage. The defense hasn't really played overly well during the past three weeks and the offense doesn't seem to catch fire until the fourth quarter.
Overcoming the St. Louis Rams, the Arizona Cardinals and a suspect Eagles team in the fourth quarter is exciting but not awe-inspiring. The anemic Seahawks were supposed to be lumped in with that downtrodden bunch during the softest stretch of the Giants schedule but made the Giants look sloppy on their home turf.
Next week, the Giants host the confident Buffalo Bills, who are beginning to look like the real thing and got four Michael Vick picks of their own.
Manning, who last week said he wanted to get off to fast starts and avoid any last-minute heroics, will probably be spending a lot of time this week adjusting his Cruz control.