Victor Cruz thought the verbal lobs sent between East Rutherford and Florham Park were blown out of proportion all week leading up to the city rivalry. That's why Christmas Eve couldn't come soon enough for the second-year wide receiver, who added a few more stamps to the Giants' record book.
When it was all said and done, the New Jersey native walked off the field at MetLife stadium with the single-season receiving record, the longest play in the 87-year history of the franchise, and most importantly, a victory.
Jets coach Rex Ryan paid his respects.
"He is a Jet killer, it seems, ever since that preseason game when we never know if he was a receiver or what," said Ryan, who also conceded the Giants are the better team for now. "He showed today that he is a heck of a receiver and I give him all the credit."
"That's big coming from a guy like that," Cruz said. "He doesn't give us respect all the time, and I guess he sees it and sees that we've probably come a long way throughout this season. Those are pretty big words coming from a guy like that."
Eli Manning completed just nine passes in Saturday's 29-14 victory (his lowest in a full game since 2007). Three of them were to Cruz, whose 164 yards increased his season total to 1,358 and broke Amani Toomer's record of 1,343 set in 2002.
Ninety-nine of his sixth 100-yard game of the season (which is another Giants record) came on a single play that titled the momentum in the Giants' direction.
On third down from the Giants' one, Manning hit Cruz on the right side at the 11. Cruz then escaped tackles by Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson, taking off down the right sideline. Safety Eric Smith made a final attempt near midfield, but Cruz high-stepped by him and ran it in for the longest play in Giants' history.
Before the play, the Giants offense had been reeling all half with four punts, three three-and-outs, and a chip shot field goal. Cruz's 99-yarder sparked a 10-7 lead before halftime, one which they would never relinquish.
"I knew that we at least needed to string together some first downs and get some momentum going our way and we could do some good things," Cruz said. "I knew we needed some momentum-changer and I was just glad I could be the person to do that."
"Just a great effort by him," said Manning, who extended his franchise single-season record to 4,587 passing yards. "We wanted to call something to have a shot to get the first down, but get the ball out of my hands pretty quickly when you're backed up in your own end zone. Threw it to him and it was going to be close if we got the first down or not. I was just kind of hoping that he could maybe fall forward to get the first down in that situation… Obviously that flip flopped everything. We take the lead, they miss the field goal, we go into halftime with a three-point lead in that situation. So a great effort by him and a huge play."
Cruz broke the season record a quarter later, hauling in a 36-yarder down the right sideline. Two plays later, Ahmad Bradshaw ran it in for 14 yards to give the Giants a 17-7 lead with two minutes to play in the third.
"It was on a specific switch route, and I was going up the sideline and I saw that I was open," Cruz said. "Eli threw it to me, and I just needed to make that grab in order to propel our team back down the field. I was able to make it and I got hit pretty good out of bounds. I just got up and it was exciting."
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