Cruz taken out of the game plan

CINCINNATI -- Victor Cruz didn’t get many chances to catch passes Sunday against the Bengals, and the best opportunity he had, he dropped.

That kind of summed up the day for the Giants in their 31-13 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.

Cruz had just three catches for 26 yards against a Cincinnati defense designed to take him out of New York’s plans. A perfectly thrown seam pass by Eli Manning on the first play of the fourth quarter should have been a 38-yard touchdown but instead the ball bounced off Cruz's hands and to the turf.

“It was just a long pass, I took my eye off it at the last minute and as soon as I get my hand on it, they reached in there and broke it up but I should have come down with it,” said Cruz.

Cruz caught the last touchdown pass thrown by Manning, the 77-yarder with 1:13 left in the fourth quarter against Washington that proved to be the deciding points in a 27-23 victory on Oct. 21.

Denver had 123 yards after the catch against Cincinnati last week in a 31-23 victory led by Peyton Manning. The Broncos didn’t attempt a lot of deep passes but were able to beat Cincinnati with crossing patterns underneath that turned into big gains.

The Giants appeared to attempt the same strategy but managed just 45 yards after catch on Eli Manning's 29 completions.

“Everything was similar from last week’s offense to this week’s offense,” said Cincinnati middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. “We knew that Victor Cruz was such a big part of their offense and is a great weapon. Most of our plays were based on doubling him and making sure where he aligned on every play. We wanted to execute him out of the game plan and then stop the run and I think we did a good job.”

Hakeem Nicks was the beneficiary of all the attention Cruz got. Nicks caught nine passes for 75 yards and was targeted 14 times. Still, his longest reception of the day was only 16 yards.

Nicks has been battling knee and foot issues this season. He missed three straight games after catching 10 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown at Tampa Bay in Week 2. He had just 13 catches in the past four games he’s played in.