When it comes to reliving the glory days online, Twitter may be the best place to do it. That’s where legendary New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and one of his favorite targets, wide receiver Victor Cruz, recently teamed up to share the secret behind an iconic touchdown connection from 2012.
The play came in Week 7 of the 2012 season. The Giants were trailing Washington by three points with less than two minutes to play – until Manning hit Cruz in stride for a 77-yard touchdown strike. The Giants would end up winning the game 27-23.
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“Vic had the option to break in or curl it up, but if they doubled him on the inside and outside he could run through the double team,” Manning revealed on Twitter. “Great read and decision by him. 62 Read Special was the play.”
Shortly after Manning posted this, Cruz replied to the tweet with his own perspective on the play.
“Any time I saw quarters coverage and that near safety was anywhere under 15 yards I’m thinking salsa time!!” Cruz wrote on Twitter.
The film backs up their analysis perfectly. You can see during the replay that Washington cornerback Josh Wilson (No. 26) is lined up to the inside of Cruz, about one yard off the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, free safety Madieu Williams (No. 41) is lined up on Cruz’s outside shoulder and roughly 11 yards off the line of scrimmage. Cruz streaks in between the two defenders and slips through Wilson’s diving tackle attempt en route to the end zone.
At the time of this play, the Giants were defending Super Bowl champions. This was one of Eli Manning’s three game-winning drives/fourth-quarter comebacks during the 2012 season. They improved to 5-2 after this win over Washington, but Big Blue ended up missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record. The Giants have returned to the playoffs one time since this moment (2016 season) and lost in the wild-card round.
The Manning-to-Cruz Legacy
This play was one of 25 regular-season touchdown connections from Manning to Cruz. Only three players caught more touchdown passes from Manning: Odell Beckham Jr. (44), Plaxico Burress (33) and Hakeem Nicks (25). Manning and Cruz also connected for one postseason touchdown — a two-yard strike in the 2012 Super Bowl vs. the New England Patriots.
Cruz had 303 receptions for 4,549 yards with the Giants (his 1,536 receiving yards in 2011 remains a single-season franchise record) despite an abbreviated career with the team. As an undrafted free agent, Cruz did not enjoy his breakout season until the age of 25. Injuries started catching up to him by the age of 28, and he caught his last NFL pass before he turned 31 years old.
It’s crazy to think what Cruz and Manning could have accomplished if they’d had more time on the field together.
Giants Need a Deep Threat Like Cruz
Because he primarily worked out of the slot, Cruz was often called upon to keep the chains moving on third down. But he also had an underrated ability to stretch the field. The 77-yard touchdown from 2012 was one of his nine career touchdowns longer than 65 yards. For the sake of comparison, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has played three NFL seasons and has only thrown one touchdown pass longer than 65 yards in his career.
Whether it’s Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney or someone else entirely, the Giants need someone to emerge as a deep threat for Jones this season.