By Sean Hartnett
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Robert Griffin III improvised and danced his way around the Giants, eluding defenders in a virtuoso performance at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Redskins’ sensational rookie quarterback toyed with New York on the ground and through the air late in the fourth quarter.
It was going to take something special to take the victory out from under RGIII — the quarterback blessed with the perfect combination of athleticism and vision.
On fourth and 10 with 2:07 remaining in the final quarter, Griffin came up with something magical. RGIII scampered around the backfield to buy time, but had the presence of mind to find tight end Logan Paulsen for a 19-yard completion that kept the Redskins’ hopes alive. It will probably go down as the most exciting play of the 2012 NFL season.
Griffin turned on the jets on the next play as he burst down the sideline for a 24-yard gain. With 1:38 on the clock, RGIII lofted a perfect 30-yard pass into the arms of Santana Moss to give Washington a 23-20 lead. Griffin and Moss tormented the Giants’ secondary all game and Redskins fans probably thought that was the icing on the cake.
If the Giants were to take this game from the grasp RGIII, they were going to need something spicy — perhaps a bit of salsa thrown into Eli Manning’s game-winning recipe.
Victor Cruz stole the show. RGIII’s brilliant debut against his first NFC East opponents ended in misery as the Giants’ big-play wide receiver found daylight. Cruz separated himself from Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams as the ball was in the air with cat-like quickness, before hauling in the pass and going untouched into the end zone.
Suddenly, the Giants had a 27-23 lead, with only 1:13 remaining for Griffin to attempt a comeback. Minutes earlier, it looked as if Santana Moss was going to be the hero — but Chase Blackburn forced Moss to fumble as the Giants linebacker stripped, then came up with the ball to preserve an improbable Giants victory.
It was Cruz’s 77-yard touchdown that would prove to be the difference. The Paterson, N.J., native has knack for coming up with crucial receptions and game-changing plays in his young career.
Cruz tied former Giant Homer Jones’ NFL record for six 70-plus yard TD catches in a player’s first 26 games.
Expect the big plays and salsa dancing to continue. Cruz has proven he’s going to be a star player in this league for a long time.
Is Victor Cruz on the path to greatness? Sound off below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.