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A sloppy first half nearly doomed the New York Giants, but with pride and the playoffs on the line, Big Blue played their best half of the season. The offensive line buckled down, and the Giants proved they could win without Eli Manning. The running game exploded, and the defense dismantled Mark Sanchez. The battle for New York turned into a rout in the fourth quarter, ending 29-14 in favor of the Giants.
Victor Cruz has certainly made the best of his opportunities this season. The undrafted receiver stepped in when both Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon went down with injuries early in the year. In his first start of the season, Cruz put up 110 yards and two touchdowns on the division rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Since then, he’s stepped into the record books. With 1,194 yards receiving, Cruz owns the single-season franchise record, and that’s despite being a non-factor in three games. Cruz also became the 13th player in the NFL to break for a 99-yard touchdown reception. At this rate, the big playmaker is likely the MVP of 2011.
Throughout 2011 the Giants running game has been a weak point. The one-two punch of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs seems to be slowing down. But with the receivers catching a case of the dropsies late in the year, the rushers had to come up big against the Jets. Big surprise—they did.
Brandon Jacobs picked apart Dallas for 101 yards, the second time a Giants rusher has cracked the century mark all season. Against the Jets, Bradshaw rolled in for two touchdowns. Even Demarcus Ware got in on the act with a 17-yard sprint against Gang Green. Lucky, since Manning went 9-for-27 in his worst performance of the year.
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez got rattled by a strong Giants defensive line and coughed up two interceptions. Sanchez was also tackled for a safety in an embarrassing show of situational offense. He must retain his composure in Miami next week. Without a win, the Jets will miss the playoff for the first time since 2008.
With the win today, the Giants have knocked the Philadelphia Eagles out of the playoffs. In Dallas, Tony Romo left the game in the first quarter with a bruised throwing hand. It’s a wild game so far between the Cowboys and the Eagles, but it really doesn’t matter. If the Giants win next week at home against the ‘Boys, they’ll be heading into the postseason.
As for the Jets, the playoff picture is a bit more complicated. They must win against Miami and pray for a ton of AFC West losses.