Victor Cruz finished 25 catches short of the Giants' record for receptions in a season, but an argument can be made that he had the greatest season by a wideout in the history of the franchise. It almost certainly was the most impactful.
Cruz, the second-year wide receiver who did not catch a pass in the three games he played as a rookie – and had only two in the first two games this season – finished the just-concluded regular season with 82 receptions, tying Amani Toomer (2002) for second place on the Giants' single-season list. Steve Smith's team record of 107 catches in 2009 remained safely in the distance.
Though Cruz is second on the receptions list, he set a standard in many other statistical categories.
His 1,536 yards broke Toomer's former team record by 193 yards. The yardage total left him third in the NFL, behind only Detroit's Calvin Johnson and New England's Wes Welker and directly in front of Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald. It's an interesting foursome. Johnson was the second overall selection of the 2007 NFL Draft and Fitzgerald was the picked third overall in 2004. Welker and Cruz had to make it in the NFL as undrafted free agents.
Cruz is the first Giants player to finish in the top three in receiving yards since Toomer in 2002, when he set the previous team record of 1,343 yards and finished third in the league.
Cruz's 18.7-yard average was the highest among the 72 players who had at least 50 catches this season and was the highest by a Giant with at least 50 receptions since Del Shofner averaged 21.4 yards on 53 catches in 1962.
No NFL receiver had averaged at least 18.7 yards on at least 82 catches since St. Louis' Torry Holt in 2000 (19.9-yard average on 82 receptions).
In the Giants' NFC East-clinching victory Sunday over Dallas, Cruz caught six passes for 178 yards, a 29.6-yard average that was the highest in a game by a Giant with at least six receptions since Toomer averaged 30.2 yards (six catches for 181 yards) in a victory over the Jets.
Cruz had seven 100-yard games this season, breaking the former franchise record of five, set by Shofner in 1963 and tied by Homer Jones in 1968.
Cruz had four touchdown receptions of more than 70 yards this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no pro player had done that since Otis Taylor of the then AFL Kansas City Chiefs in 1966. No Giants receiver had accomplished the feat since Jones in 1965.
Cruz also had a 68-yard touchdown reception. His five touchdown catches of at least 65 yards are the second-most in a season in NFL history. The record of six was set by Hall of Famer Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch in 1951.Inside the Numbers:
*Eli Manning, of course, threw all of those passes to Cruz. He actually threw all of the Giants' 589 passes this season, a career-high and team record. So were his 359 completions and 4,933 yards.
Manning was the first NFL quarterback to throw at least four touchdown passes of at least 72 yards since Kurt Warner of St. Louis in 2000 (six). He was the first Giants quarterback to do it since Earl Morrall threw four in 1965.
*With Manning throwing and Cruz and Hakeem Nicks doing much of the catching (a combined 158 receptions), the Giants set a team record with 295.5 passing yards a game. Actually, they obliterated it. The former record, set in 2009, was 251.2 yards.
*The Giants led the NFL with 18 completions of 40 or more yards this season. Green Bay and Detroit tied for second with 16.
*The Giants finished fifth in the NFL in passing yards, their highest ranking since they finished fifth in 1984.
*Conversely, the Giants' 89.2 rushing yards per game left them 32nd in the NFL, the first time they finished last in the league since 1953. It was their lowest per-game rushing average since 1999 (88.0). The Giants were also last with an average of 3.5 yards a carry, the first time they finished at the bottom in that category since 1975. It was their lowest per-carry output since 1999, when they averaged 3.27 yards.
The Giants are the third team to make the playoffs after finishing last in the league in rushing since 1990, when a second wild card team was added in each conference. The others were the 2008 Arizona Cardinals and the 2009 Indianapolis Colts, both of whom rode their passing attacks all the way to the Super Bowl.
*The Giants had a 96-yard touchdown drive vs. Dallas one week after they had a 99-yard possession in their victory over the Jets. It was the first time the Giants had scoring drives of at least 90 yards in consecutive games since Weeks 6 and 7 of the 1992 season, when they had a 91-yarder vs. the Phoenix Cardinals and a 92-yarder at the Los Angeles Rams.
*With 16.5 sacks this season, Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul joined Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan as the only Giants with at least 16 in a season. Taylor did it once – he had 20.5 sacks in his 1986 MVP season – and Strahan did it twice (an NFL-record 22.5 sacks in 2001 and 18.5 in 2003).
*The Giants are one of six teams in this year's playoffs that did not qualify for the postseason in 2010. It is the 16th consecutive season at least five teams qualified for the playoffs that did not reach the postseason the year before.
*The Giants this season scored 394 points and allowed 400. Of the 120 playoff teams from 2002-2011, only seven gave up more points than they scored. The Giants did it twice and were one of two teams to do so this season:
Year Team Points Scored Points Allowed
2004 Seattle 371 373
2004 St. Louis 319 392
2006 Seattle 335 341
2006 Giants 355 362
2010 Seattle 310 407
2011 Giants 394 400
2011 Denver 309 390
*Tom Coughlin has been an NFL head coach for 16 seasons – eight apiece with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Giants. He was 68-60 with the Jaguars and is 74-54 with the Giants. The 74 victories leave him three behind Bill Parcells, who is second on the Giants' career list. Hall of Famer Steve Owen is first with 153.
*Nicks had five receptions for 76 yards against the Cowboys and reached a couple of milestones in the process. He increased his career total to 202 receptions and moved past Howard Cross (201) and into 20th place on the Giants' career list. Nicks now has 3,034 career receiving yards.
*Manning set a career high with six rushing attempts (for 14 yards) vs. Dallas. His previous high was five rushes, which he had done three times previously, most recently at Detroit on Nov. 18, 2007.
*Today is Manning's 31st birthday.
*Lawrence Tynes' four extra points Sunday increased his Giants career total to 174, breaking a tie with Joe Danelo and moving him into second place on the Giants' career list. Pete Gogolak is first with 268.
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