Cruz 'OK' after big hit; pass game falls flat

Victor Cruz has the wind knocked out of him after he takes a hard hit in the end zone. William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US Presswire

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For a brief moment in the second quarter, Victor Cruz was down. He had run a short route in the end zone and after contact fell to the turf at MetLife Stadium. It’s one thing for the Giants to struggle in the passing game, but it would be another thing to lose their most reliable receiver.

“I’m OK,” Cruz said. “I just got the wind knocked out of me and I was down there for a minute and got my wind back.”

Giants fans might have been relieved, but there are bigger concerns after the Giants’ 24-20 loss to the Steelers. Quarterback Eli Manning completed just 10 passes all game. Cruz got half of those for 67 yards, but that was out of 11 balls thrown his way. Manning attempted 24 passes, but they weren’t connecting with his receivers.

“Just one or two miscues,” Cruz said, “nothing out of the ordinary where, no need to run home and tell Mom about. Just a couple of things where we weren’t on the same page today.”

But not everyone took that approach. Coach Tom Coughlin admitted, “we’ve got to get (Manning) back on track.”

“I feel like I’m throwing the ball accurately when I have opportunities to, it’s just trying to find guys open and trying to just get in good situations,” Manning said. “We had some big plays with pass interference where that accounted for 50 or 100 yards or so on some big ones. Besides that, we’re just not getting our shots down the field as much, it’s not consistent. We just have to do better overall in the passing game.”

Coughlin also alluded that the problem might not be all on Manning. Hakeem Nicks caught just one pass out of four. Tight end Martellus Bennett caught 3-of-4 passes, but he was one of the few bright spots.

“We are not going to stop doing what we do, so we just got to get going,” Coughlin said. “People have got to play the way they are capable of playing. Look at where our big play production has been. Two weeks ago, we were the No. 1 big play team in the league. I mean, it doesn’t make any sense.”

Nicks said the Steelers were employing an efficient defense on the passing game.

“Just going offhand, they were playing a lot of cover two with the safety over the top,” Nicks said. “Tried to take away anything deep but we got certain formations where we tried to hit the ball deep but we didn’t connect.”

Nicks isn’t ready to hit the panic button yet, and sounded a little like Cruz at the end.

“Trying to be a veteran about it you don’t get frustrated," Nicks said. "Be patient. Know your day is going to come. I feel like I’ll have a breakthrough game one of these games.”