Victor Cruz knows his days as the featured wide receiver are over and his knee injury pushed him down on the depth chart behind Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard.
But Cruz is a proud man and those types of players still know how to come up big.
On the winning touchdown drive, Cruz caught his only ball of the day, which was good for 48 yards and set up the winning touchdown, in the Giants 22-16 win over the Chicago Bears.
Again, he may not stir the Giants drink, but he is the salsa-ing when needed, which is something the Giants missed the last two seasons.
“I think it just seems to be happening,” Cruz said. “I think just being in a timely place at a timely manner for Eli to get me the ball. Whether it’s a scramble or a straight downfield play, I think I’ve just been able to find the ball and open space for Eli to be able to connect with me.”
This is what the Giants envisioned going into this season. Teams can’t cover everyone, especially if Beckham and Shepard are getting the best and possibly double coverage, Cruz will be open for some easy plays.
Even though, he doesn’t have the burning speed he had five years ago when he helped lead the Giants to a win in Super Bowl XLVI, he is still a threat in the open field.
“We’re up for the challenge,” Cruz said. “This is why we’re here and why we play. We understand that there’s going to be games where Odell is going to be seeing a lot of coverage and attention. Shep and I and the entire receiving corps, we’re ready to step up and make plays. When the time comes, we have to be ready.”
More importantly, Cruz needs to take a leadership role on this club. As one of the few Giants left from 2011, he needs to lead the wide receivers as the team goes into December. At 7-3, the schedule only has one gimme left on the docket, which is next week in Cleveland.
Then the fun begins with games in Pittsburgh and home to Dallas and the Lions. They end the season on the road in Philly and Washington.
“We’ll take it,” he said. “We’ll take it as it comes. We’re continuing to rally these victories and continuing to build on them. With every victory, with every week, we’re getting stronger as a team. That’s what you want to see. That’s how you want to continue to progress as the meat of the season comes. As it starts to get cold, that’s when the real football starts to kick in.”
So fun times to come and Cruz will have to lead the team through some adversity as it comes over the next month. There is a good chance Big Blue will be playing past New Year’s Day this season and maybe with some luck, will be part of another Giant run in January.
Cruz sees it right now.
“I do believe that we have a championship-type atmosphere in this locker room,” he said. Defensively, you can see it. Those guys are playing lights out. Offensively, we just want to continue to do what we’re doing. I think we have the tools to get to that game. We just have to take it one game at a time and continue to stack these W’s.”
So even with one catch, Cruz still is the man. And the Giants will definitely need his spark.