Victor Cruz appeared to be somewhat incredulous as he stood at a podium in a media interview room at MetLife Stadium Sunday addressing the press.
Not long before the Q&A, the wide receiver made a spectacular 34-yard catch from quarterback Eli Manning on a vital third-down play late in fourth quarter, setting up kicker Josh Brown’s 23-yard game-winning field goal as the clock simultaneously hit all zeros, earning the Giants a 16-13 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Accordingly, as Cruz surveyed a group of reporters, he still couldn’t completely consider the significant impact he has had on his team’s 2-0 start this season after having missed nearly two full years of game action while recovering first from a torn patella tendon in his right knee sustained in October 2014, and then from a calf injury that sidelined him all of last season.
“I just wanted to work my way in,” Cruz said of his inspirational and thus far highly productive return. “Catch things that are in front of me. Make the plays that are presented to me.”
Cruz has done much more than that, scoring the pivotal touchdown in the Giants 21-19 Week 1 win over the Dallas Cowboys and accounting for four catches for 91 yards versus the 0-2 Saints.
“To make the game-winning catch a week ago and today to make a pretty decisive catch on the sideline to seal the game, I couldn’t draw it up any other way,” said Cruz. “I just go out and play the game, and I think I’m getting better as the weeks go on.”
Cruz has helped the Giants begin the season 2-0 for the first time since 2009. Their victory over the Cowboys was their first opening season win since 2010. As a collective, the receiving corps of Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Sheppard accounted for 20 catches for 294 yards, led by the rookie Sheppard’s 8 receptions for 117 yards.
Their stats would have been gaudier if not for a few dropped passes perfectly placed by Manning, who was 32-41 for 368 yards and no interceptions. Despite the impressive numbers, the offense failed to score a touchdown, settling for three Brown field goals. The Giants’ only TD on the day was provided by defensive back Janoris Jenkins’ 65-yard return on a blocked Saints field goal attempt with 2:30 remaining in the first half.
And as they were against the Cowboys, the unit as a whole was exceptional, limiting future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Drew Brees to 263 yards passing and one touchdown. The previous Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, Brees threw for 423 yards and four TDs.
The Giants host NFC East division opponent Washington (0-2) this Sunday (1 p.m.) at MetLife Stadium, chasing an unblemished 3-0 record and two crucial division wins, with the first attained at Dallas in the season opener.