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As we wait for the Giants and Patriots to take the field in Indianapolis, we're going to be running down the 10 biggest reasons why the Giants are headed to Super Bowl 42. Coming in at No. 3 is Victor Cruz.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but has anything ever looked stupider in retrospect than the wailing of Giants fans over losing Steve Smith?
Smith's good hands and ability to get seven yards when you needed six on third down made him a nice part of the Giants offense, but he was never a guy who changed the face of games with a single play. Victor Cruz, as we learned thanks to Smith's departure, is just that kind of player.
For a while there it looked like Cruz would be changing the face of games for the worse. He had a knack for bad drops, he tried to hand away the Cardinals game by leaving the ball on the field before officials bailed him out and his shoddy hands did give away the Seahawks game when he couldn't catch a ball that turned into the interception that won the game for Seattle.
But that seemed to be the part of the comic book where the hero learns how to harness his powers so that he can use them for good instead of evil. By the end of the year, Cruz compiled one of the most impressive lists of game-altering catches you've ever seen.
The 99-yard touchdown vs. the Jets - Credit awful tackling for helping Cruz make his way to the end zone, but there may not have been a bigger play made by a member of the Giants all season than Cruz's Christmas Eve jaunt.
It bailed out a sputtering offense and set up a second half surge that hasn't really subsided.
The 74-yard touchdown vs. the Cowboys - Cruz got the party started the next week against the Cowboys in the first quarter when he again evaded tacklers who should have brought him down on the way to the end zone. NBC was prepared this time and piped in salsa music to accompany his touchdown dance.
The 44-yard crusher vs. the Cowboys - After the Cowboys closed within a touchdown in the second half, Cruz made what might have been his most impressive catch of the season to kill their hopes in the second half. Going one-on-one for a jump ball thrown by Eli Manning, Cruz couldn't rely on his agility in the open field and simply outmuscled Orlando Scandrick for the catch that clinched the NFC East.
The 17-yard clincher vs. the Packers - Up 10 in Lambeau with four minutes to play, the Giants faced a third-and-long they needed to hit if they wanted to avoid another Aaron Rodgers comeback. Manning found Cruz in a soft spot in the zone and it was on to San Francisco.
There were plenty of others -- Two touchdowns in the Week Three win over the Eagles that the Giants absolutely had to have, a juggling catch and run for a touchdown against the Seahawks that almost made up for the way Cruz blew the game, the game-winning touchdown against the Dolphins and any of his 10 catches that represented the only offensive thing working for the Giants against the 49ers.
All told, Cruz finished with 82 catches, 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns in the greatest season ever by a Giants wide receiver. It was one of the more impactful seasons a receiver on any team has ever turned in.
One man doing all of that would be remarkable under any circumstances. For it to be a player who came to the Giants as the longest of long shots and only made the team because they didn't want to see him wind up playing for the Jets after Rex Ryan marveled at his meaningless performance in a 2010 preseason game is the stuff of football legend.
The Giants have plenty of talent, but they don't sniff the playoffs without Cruz and anyone who said they thought that way back when is a world class liar.