- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Victor Cruz may not be headed to the Pro Bowl, but the undrafted 25-year-old wide receiver is having one helluva year for the Giants.
Cruz, who had six catches for 178 yards and a touchdown on Sunday night in his team’s 31-14 victory over the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium, finished the regular season with a franchise record 1,536 receiving yards. That total ranked third in the NFL behind Lions superstar Calvin Johnson (1,681) and Patriots standout Wes Welker (1,569).
“A realistic goal was just to get a catch in a real game that mattered, in a real game that counted,” Cruz said. “Due to some unfortunate injuries, I was able to come in and play a significant role. it’s been an amazing ride. It’s been a roller-coaster for me. I’m excited that we’re here, we won our division, and we’re going to the playoffs.”
Cruz has made several highlight-reel type plays for the Giants this season. So it came as no surprise when he made two on Sunday night in a do-or-die game. Cruz got a great block from teammate Hakeem Nicks and outraced two Cowboys defenders for a 74-yard TD in the first quarter, and hauled in a 44-yard grab with Dallas corner Orlando Scandrick draped all over him in the fourth.
“The touchdown was just a simple out route,” Cruz said. “I caught it and when I turned up field I saw Hakeem giving me a great block. I saw the sideline open, so I continued up the sideline. I was looking at myself on the Jumbotron making sure they won’t close. I just continued up the sideline right to a touchdown.
“And the 44-yarder? It was basically me going up the seam and I saw the safety go opposite of where I was going. I just continued up the seam and when I turned Eli [Manning] was shaking off some defenders. He just eased one over to me and I kind of made a play on the ball.”
Said defensive end Justin Tuck when asked what he thought when Cruz was racing into the end zone: “Where did this guy come from? Obviously, Eli’s had an awesome year, but it just seems like when we need a big play [Cruz] has stepped up and been that guy. I think those are our two co-MVPs.
“Some of the plays he’s made this year have been tremendous. It gets to the point now where you look at him, the catch over the middle in the fourth quarter, I’m like, ‘Why didn’t you score? You do it every other day.’ He’s just been a tremendous help for his offense and this entire team. It’s fun to watch him.”
Cruz ended up with nine TDs during the regular season -- which meant several “Silk City Salsa” dances. He finished the 2011 campaign with five touchdowns of 65 or more yards, and three TDs of 60 or more yards after making the catch, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“I love it. I love it,” Manning said. “If that means he’s scoring touchdowns, then that’s a good thing for the Giants.”