By Paul Dottino
EAST RUTHERFORD – Was that Santa or Victor Cruz racing down the right sideline for a 99-yard TD?
His memorable gift sparked the Giants to a 29-14 victory over the Jets on Sunday and put the Giants in position for a winner-take-all game for the NFC East against the Dallas Cowboys. And yes, that game has been flexed to an 8:20 p.m. start on New Year’s night.
More on Cruz in a moment, but since this is Christmas, Happy Holidays to everybody and let’s get right to the breakdown:
Offense-WR Victor Cruz. His 99-yard reception in the second quarter tied an NFL mark for the longest in history. It also was the longest play in franchise history, breaking the 98-yard pass Earl Morrall threw to Homer Jones in 1966. The Cruz catch changed the entire flow and tempo of the game, putting the Giants up, 10-7, with 2:10 left in the first half. Cruz brought his season total for receiving yards to 1,194, breaking the team mark held by Amani Toomer.
Defense-Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Granted the Giants were going up against a pedestrian quarterback in Mark Sanchez, but Fewell called for much more pass pressure and used an aggressive scheme with more blitzing. It worked. The Giants racked up five sacks and seven tackles for losses. His players said he met with them on Saturday night and explained to the unit that they were going to get after it. The unit held the Jets to 4-of-21 on third down.
Special teams-WR Jerrel Jernigan. The rookie, who has seen very little action this season, took back three kickoffs for a 25.7 average. But, more importantly, he appeared to run with confidence after a few early-season yips.
Offense-WR Hakeem Nicks. The stat sheet tells the story: One catch for 20 yards with two drops (one leading to an interception). With the Giants up, 20-7, Jacquian Williams recovered a fumbled snap in the Giants’ end zone and 8:53 left. On first down, Manning audibled out of a run and fired a pass to Nicks, who had it bounce off his hands and get intercepted by David Harris, who took it back to the Giants 11 and set up a Sanchez TD run.
Defense-LB Michael Boley. It appeared he busted an assignment and allowed TE Josh Baker to go free on a 5-yard TD catch that put the Jets up, 7-0, midway into the first quarter. Boley also missed on a chance to come up with an interception on the third play of the third quarter.
Special teams-LB Chase Blackburn. Late in the second quarter, a crowd of Jets downed a punt at the Giants 1, but Blackburn put himself in the middle of the crowd – not a smart placed to be if the ball takes an odd bounce and touches you.