Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images
There was a key to the New York Giants turning their offense around. In fact, according to Victor Cruz, it was a simple fix.
After being dismantled by the Detroit Lions in the season opener, New York need just throw the ball in Cruz’s direction versus the Arizona Cardinals. If they did that, everything would be OK according to the former Pro Bowler.
“There needs to be an increased number of targets in my direction,” Cruz said last week.
Versus the Cardinals Sunday afternoon, those passes were thrown, but when New York needed him most, Cruz came up short. The wideout dropped three must-catch passes Sunday afternoon as Arizona defeated New York, 25-14, dropping the Giants record to 0-2 for the second consecutive season.
“Any ball in my direction, in my opinion, I’ve got to bring in,” Cruz said. “I’ve got to be able to make the play for my team and make the play whenever (Quarterback Eli Manning) looks my way. I own up to it and those are ones I have to bring in.”
After struggling on defense in its season opener, the Giants defense again got off to a slow start versus the Cardinals. Arizona marched 80 yards in 11 plays, capping the drive with a one-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Dwyer. Following an Eli Manning interception on New York’s first series, it was a 10-play, 40-yard drive that ended in a Chandler Catanzaro field goal.
Trailing by 10, the Giants offense finally found life. Manning and Co. marched 90 yards in 13 plays before the quarterback found receiver Rueben Randle for a seven-yard score past Patrick Peterson. Three series later in the second half, it was another touchdown pass from Manning, this time to Daniel Fells, to give New York its first lead of the season.
Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images
“We were confident,” Cruz said. “I think the confidence level was there. We were getting ourselves open, we were making the big play.”
But the success was short lived. Arizona answered New York’s scoring drive with one of their own when Catanzaro hit a 37-yard field goal. Then, facing a third-and-six, the game took a turn for the worse.
With time to throw in the pocket, Manning dropped back and sent a pass deep down the left sideline. Cruz was open, but dropped the ball. The punt team came on, and Ted Ginn gave Giant fans a flashback to 2013.
Steve Weatherford boomed a high, spiraling kick to the New York 29 yard line. Zack Bowman came in to wrap up Ginn, but the former first-round pick spun out of the tackle and took off up the middle of the field.
Ginn eluded Zak DeOssie and Spencer Paysinger before sprinting past Weatherford and toward the west end zone at MetLife Stadium for a 71-yard touchdown.
“It was just that point of time where we needed a play,” Ginn said. “I just went out and I just tried to make the best play that I can, and it turned out to be a touchdown.”
Ted Ginn – © USA TODAY Sports Images
On the ensuing kickoff, Quintin Demps fumbled, setting up another Catanzaro field goal. The next offensive series, Manning went back to Cruz, giving the receiver a chance to make amends. Cruz responded with two more drops, leading to another Giants punt and three-and-out.
“We just need to keep working,” Manning said. “Those are physical mistakes, those things happen sometimes, a drop. That’s football…. We have opportunities to make plays, we just have to make them.”
With 9:11 remaining in the game, the Giants put together their best shot at a comeback, but came up short again. After driving 65 yards to the Arizona 17-yard line, Manning threw a pass in the flat to Rashad Jennings. As the running back cut to turn up the field, he slipped and fell to the turf. The ball popped out and Arizona recovered.
The Giants defense forced a three-and-out, getting the ball in the offense’s hands one last time, but New York went four-and-out, setting up a fourth and game-sealing Catanzaro field goal.
“You know what?” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I look out there, they’re men. We’re all men. Stop feeling sorry four ourselves. We had an opportunity and we let it slip. There’s no one to blame but ourselves.
“You work as hard as you can, you run around like a crazy man. You get your coaches to apply themselves even harder. You get the players to apply themselves harder.”
In the loss, Manning completed 26-of-39 passes for 277 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Larry Donnell caught seven passes for 81 yards, Cruz five for 60 and Rueben Randle four for 39 and a touchdown. Defensively, New York recorded four sacks, highlighted by Jason Pierre-Paul’s 1.5. Johnathan Hankins had the first of his career.
New York middle linebacker Jon Beason left the game in the fourth quarter with a foot injury and Walter Thurmond III with a pectoral injury, neither player returned.
The following players did not suit up for the Giants: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring), G Adam Snyder, T Charles Brown (shoulder), DE Kerry Wynn, T James Brewer (back), and DT Markus Kuhn (ankle).