NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Victor Cruz walked around the Giants locker room on Monday like someone who realized he belonged in the NFL.
Coming out of obscurity to make two remarkable touchdown catches against the Philadelphia Eagles has a way of doing that for a player, and Cruz had a smile that testified to the feeling.
For anyone who wanted to listen, Cruz described his 74- and 28-yard scoring catches in the Giants’ 29-16 win or talked about his 88 text messages, his Twitter communications and an endless number of telephone messages.
All the time, he clutched the football from his first TD catch in the crook of his elbow. The ball is going to be mounted and given to his mom in Paterson, N.J.
Not bad for a guy, who until a Sunday in Philadelphia, was best known for catching three touchdowns in a preseason game against the rival Jets before the 2010 season.
“It feels good,” Cruz said Monday. “You actually feel like you have a good home and you feel like you can do things week in and week out against top talent. It just felt good to go into Philly and get that win in Philly. That meant a lot for our team. I think our confidence is sky high right now.”
Cruz’s confidence is through the roof, especially after the way the season began in Washington.
On the opening drive of the season, Cruz dropped a wide-open third down pass from Eli Manning and seemingly set the tone for a listless offense in a 28-14 loss.
Instead of blowing up and yelling at his young receiver, Manning walked up to the undrafted first-year player out of Massachusetts and told him not to worry, just finish his plays in the future.
Cruz, who grew up less than 10 miles from the Giants’ home in the Meadowlands, got his first two career catches against the Rams on Monday night and then caught a major break when Mario Manningham was unable to play this weekend because of a concussion.
Coupled with a knee injury to Domenik Hixon, it thrust Cruz into the starting lineup and he responded with three catches for 110 yards, including an impressive salsa dance after breaking tackles by Kurt Coleman and Nnamdi Asomugha on his 74-yard catch and sprint down the sideline late in the first quarter.
The dance was preplanned at the suggestion of quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan. Cruz is half Puerto Rican and Sullivan reminded him that this is Hispanic month in the NFL.
“He made me do it,” said Cruz, who only played in three games as a rookie before going on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
While Cruz broke two tackles on his first touchdown, the play that impressed his teammates was the second score. Manning threw into double coverage near the goal line and Cruz jumped over Asomugha and Jarrad Page to make the grab near the goal line and score.
Cruz laughed about the play, noting that as he was running it he felt there was no way that Manning would throw into double coverage.
“But I turned and the ball was in the air and I had to make a play and I came down with it, it worked out,” he said. “It was either going to be my ball or I was going to bat it down and it was going to be nobody else’s ball. I was fortunate enough to go up there and create a little wiggle room and jump and make a play.”
Manning believes Cruz is someone who is just learning the ins-and-outs of running patters.
“I see a guy who’s got natural playmaking ability, which is always a plus,” Manning said. “He is young, you just have to keep working with him, but I think the greatest thing for a young player is to get reps. Get in the game, get live coverage.”
Cruz thanked Manning after the game for having the confidence to throw to him again.
“That was putting a lot of trust in me,” Cruz said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with him watching film, looking at different things. It just shows that hard work pays off.”
Cruz certainly earned more playing time. He not only caught the ball but he blocked well.
However, it remains to be seen how much he gets if Manningham returns this week.
Manningham said he is feeling better and has been cleared to play, although coach Tom Coughlin said the team’s doctors have not told him that.
Is Cruz the answer, or just a one-week wonder? Sound off in the comments below…
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