View Full Version : NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SUNDAY, JANUARY 29, 2012 - 11:23 A.M.

01-29-2012, 11:23 AM
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</font><font size="4"><font size="6"><font size="4"><font color="#FF0000"><u><font size="6">NFC EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS
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</font></u></font><font size="4"><u>NEWARK STAR LEDGER</u></font>
PATRIOT'S OWNER, ROBERT KRAFT, HEAD TO SUPER BOWL WITH A HEAVY HEART (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/patriots_owner_robert_kraft_he.html)

"Four years ago, the Giants advanced to their first Super Bowl without longtime
owner Wellington Mara, who had died of lymphoma just over two years before at
the age of 89. It was difficult for the team to not notice his absence as his
son John was the first to hoist the Lombardi Trophy after the Giants defeated
the Patriots. <div class="entry-content">

As the two squads prepare for a Super Bowl rematch next Sunday, it's the
Patriots side that will sense a void in the owner's box. Robert Kraft's wife,
Myra -- a constant presence during the Krafts' ownership dating back to 1985 --
died last July of cancer at the age of 68. </p>

The Patriots have played with an "MHK" patch above their hearts in honor of
Myra and the team has rallied around Kraft, who has endured an emotional season
without his wife and still refers to Myra as his sweetheart.</p>

Emotions were high again today when the Patriots were sent off with a pep
rally at Gillette Stadium before they went on to catch a flight to

"At the stadium today, it was so special because the times we’re in now, to
have 25,000 of our fans come to the stadium and cheer our team off and they were
chanting my sweetheart’s initials as well," Kraft said. "It was a very emotional
experience and very special." </p>

Both Kraft and the Maras have dealt with emotion in Super Bowls and are
familiar with each other, having been instrumental in negotiations with the
players' union during the lockout. </p>

"I’m very fond of the ownership on the other side," Kraft said. "The Mara
family has done so much for the league over the last 90 years and put the league

"And the Tisches are a great family and they have a great team. And Coach
[Tom] Coughlin – Tom and Bill they worked together so I think the
fans of the NFL are going to have a great football game."</p></div>

PATRIOTS' TOM BRADY HAS CONFIDENT MESSAGE FOR FANS, TEAMMATES (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/patriots_quarterback_tom_brady.html)

"This morning at Gillette Stadium, 25,000 fans filled the lower bowl of the
structure to send off the Patriots to Super Bowl XLVI. When it was quarterback
Tom Brady's turn to address the crowd, he did so with confidence.<div class="entry-content">

"We're going down there, and we're going down there for one reason," Brady
said. "We're going to give it our best and hopefully we have a lot more people
at our party next weekend."</p>

The Patriots would only have a party, of course, if they defeat the Giants on
Sunday. Brady's take on his confident words?</p>

"It was a pep rally," he said, as the team arrived at its hotel in
Indianapolis tonight. "People were pretty excited."</p>

His fellow teammates appreciated his message.</p>

"You'd have to ask Tom about that statement, but I think we’re a confident
football team," guard Brian Waters said. "I think we have every reason to be. I
think both teams have every reason to be. But I'm confident in my teammates, and
as the week as goes on, I've said -- the way we prepare, if we prepare like we
prepared the other 17 or 18 weeks in this season, I think the confidence level
will be at an all-time high."</p>

The Patriots arrived in Indianapolis a day ahead of the Giants. They will
practice tomorrow and Tuesday will be their off day, mimicking a regular
week."</p></div>PATRIOTS' BILL BELICHICK SAYS GRONKOWSKI'S STATUS IS DAY-TO-DAY (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/patriots_coach_bill_belichick_1.html)

"Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that tight end Rob Gronkowski will be
"day to day" this week after sustaining an ankle injury last Sunday against
Baltimore. <div class="entry-content">

Gronkowski was seen wearing a black walking boot when coming off the team bus
today. </p>

Gronkowski injured his ankle in the third quarter on a Bernard Pollard
tackle. Earlier in the week, Gronkowski's father, Gordy, told a Buffalo radio
station earlier this week that it was indeed a high ankle sprain. </p>

This season, he hauled in a league-leading 17 touchdown receptions and
finished sixth in the league with 1,327 receiving yards. </p>

"I know that I need to make some plays with (either of the tight ends out of)
the game," Welker said. "They're definitely a big integral part of our offense
in everything they do, and if one's not in the other guy has to step up and do
some things out there." </p>

Perhaps in a vote of confidence for Gronkowski, Welker added: "We're going to
continue to lean on (Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) through this game." </p>

Of the week in general, Belichick said that the team is looking to keep their
schedule as normal as possible in order to combat all the possible distractions.
They will practice tomorrow and take Tuesday off, resuming a regular practice
schedule on Wednesday. </p>

"We'll try to approach it in as much a routine as we can," he said. "The team
has been great all year in terms of their focus and preparation, so hopefully
that will serve us well this week." </p></div>


GIANTS' PRINCE AMUKAMARA BRINGS A FRESH PERSPECTIVE IN IS FIRST SEASON (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/giants_prince_amukamara_brings.html)

"Prince Amukamara sensed something wasn’t right. His Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/) teammates were being overtly nice
and he awkwardly felt everyone’s eyes on him as he walked to his locker to put
on his suit.

The rookie quickly realized why: His dress shirt hung at his locker without a
sleeve, his tie cut to about four inches long. And that’s what he had to wear on
the cross-country trip to San Francisco back in Week 10. “Man, it was one of my
favorite shirts and favorite tie, too,” the cornerback said. “It was fit and
tailored. I was going to bring my Burberry tie, too, so I’m glad I didn’t bring
that one.”</p>

It was just another example of the playful rookie hazing <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2011/04/giants_pick_nebraska_cornerbac.html">the
first-round draft pick</a> has received from veteran teammates in what has been
a unique rookie season. </p>

Amukamara, without the luxury of any offseason workouts because of the
lockout, was the final first-round draft pick to sign and arrived to camp six
days late. On his second day with the team, he broke his left foot, sidelining
him until Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He arrived in East Rutherford
quiet and shy — he says he likes to feel people out when he first meets them —
but it didn’t take long for the real Prince Amukamara to surface. He began
taking exception to the veterans’ treatment of rookies, refusing or prolonging
the mundane chores that rookies have historically been relegated to. </p>

“Sometimes I think they take it overboard just because they’re vets they get
to be mean about it and tell you what to do,” Amukamara said. “I just kind of
flipped the whole script and kind of had fun with it with being insubordinate a
little bit just so it can be more playful and I think that that whole vibe just
creates a great locker room atmosphere.”</p>

He quickly became comfortable in his surroundings, riding around the practice
facility on a Segway and letting loose a unique personality that includes that
sense of rebelliousness. And it quickly caught up with him.
</p>It all began with a daily toss into the cold tub — broken foot and all — for
a week straight during training camp.

“I don’t do stuff. I protect him,” 12-year safety Deon Grant claimed. </p>

“Until he gets to talking too much. See, I used to stop them when they used
to throw him in (the tub) every day. I’d be like, ‘Let him chill now.’ But
sometimes Prince gets to talkin’ junk and I’ll just give ‘em the green light:
‘Get ‘im. Get’ im.’?”</p>

So the veterans got Amukamara and continue to pile on him as the rest of the
11-player rookie class has seen their rookie-specific treatment subside as the
season has gone on.</p>

Teammates — rookies included — say the treatment comes as a result of his
inability to bite his tongue, but his personality also makes him an easy target.

Maybe it’s his high-top fade — something Amukamara said he began his junior
year at Nebraska inspired by the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” — or
the pink phone case that draws second looks.</p>

Whatever it is, they can’t seem to point a finger on how to describe him.</p>

“He’s a different cat,” rookie safety Tyler Sash. “I don’t know if there’s
another way to say it. He’s just different. He’s just Prince.”
Amukamara says
he just isn’t afraid to speak his mind and be himself.</p>

“It’s like if you’re thinking of saying stuff and thinking of doing
something, but you’re kind of scared to do it or you only do it when you’re
drunk,” Amukamara said. “I’ll just do all that stuff sober.”</p>

That tendency brings a sense of aloofness and goofiness his teammates joke
about and ride him for. Running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw — whose
lockers are to the left of Amukamara’s — capitalize on it, applying rules on
cleanliness and their locker room space; rules they know he’ll have trouble
</p>“He’s kind of slow on life,” Jacobs said. “He doesn’t know too much about
life. I think if Prince had to take care of himself outside of football, he’d be
stuck. But I think he’s slowly learning. He’s doing a nice job of learning.”

The veterans claim there’s a deeper motive to the teasing. They want to give
him an edge, a rough side to the otherwise cheerful personality that they
believe can only help him reach his potential. </p>

“He’s had the easy way it seems like,” Bradshaw said. “He’s gotten babied by
his big sisters — he has five sisters. It’s kind of like we’re big brothers to
him. We’re teaching him a little bit on the field and off the field about just
life in general and having it the hard way.”</p>

“They do it just to toughen him up a little bit,” defensive tackle Linval
Joseph added. “You can’t be soft to play on this defense and that’s what they’re
trying to do.” </p>

It may be the perfect antidote for a rookie who’s gone through some
adversity. </p>

Upon returning from his foot injury and intercepting a pass in his first
series against the Eagles, it has been downhill for the cornerback. </p>

Four games later, he was benched at halftime in the Giants’ loss to the
Washington Redskins and has seen little playing time on defense since. </p>

Since then, the teasing has continued, but so have the words of encouragement
and advice. And with the pass-happy New England Patriots standing between the
Giants and another Super Bowl, Amukamara may find himself on the field to
conclude what has been an eventful season — on and off the field. </p>

“It has been a roller coaster, but that really doesn’t do nothing to my
spirits,” Amukamara said. “I’m always going to be high on life no matter
what.”</p>GIANTS' KEVIN GILBRIDE HOPES CONSISTENCY LANDS HIM ANOTHER HEAD COACHING JOB (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/giants_kevin_gilbride_hopes_consistency_lands_him_ another_head-coaching_job.html)

Excerpt: "Standing in front of his locker on Friday after another practice in advance
of Super Bowl XLVI, Chris Snee paused a moment when asked what impresses him the
most about Kevin Gilbride.

The Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/)’ right guard saw an
opportunity to defend his offensive coordinator, and took it.</p>

“I don’t think he gets enough credit,” said Snee, a starter since his rookie
season in 2004. “I feel like I always hear so much negative stuff said about
him. He’s the first one everyone wants to blame for play calling and things like
that. I think he does a great job.</p>

“Especially this year in particular sticking with the runs. He keeps calling
them and we really haven’t given him much reason to do that, but he has faith in
us, he believes in us and he keeps calling it.”</p>

Gilbride can only hope one day a team will once again show such faith in him
as a head coach.</p>

If not for the Giants’ playoff run, that day might’ve already come.</p>

The former head coach of the San Diego Chargers was on the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers’ short list to replace fired Irvington native Raheem Morris,
according to someone informed of Tampa Bay’s plans. The person, who requested
anonymity because the Bucs didn’t divulge their list of candidates after <a href="http://www.nj.com/rutgersfootball/index.ssf/2012/01/greg_schiano_expects_super_bow.html">hiring
former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano</a>, said the team was waiting for the Giants
to be eliminated to talk to Gilbride.</p>

Tampa Bay didn’t request permission to interview Gilbride during the first
week of the playoffs. By league rules, the next window to interview coaches
still in the postseason opened last week, though the team appeared to have been
wowed by Schiano at that point.</p>

Reports from the Tampa Tribune last week indicated there was a “mystery
candidate” in the mix during the final stages. It’s believed Gilbride was that

It’s unclear whether Gilbride would’ve been able to beat out Schiano, but
indications are the 61-year old would’ve at least had a chance to interview.</p>

It’s surely another disappointment for Gilbride, who was a finalist for the
Oakland Raiders’ job three years ago and was a candidate to replace Randy Edsall
at UConn last winter.</p>

Gilbride was unavailable for interviews last week but recently told the New
York Post of his head-coaching aspirations, “Hopefully, people are acknowledging
what we’ve done and appreciate the work we’ve done developing all these young
players and say, ‘Hey, that’s something we’d like to do at our place.’?”</p>

The Giants’ offensive players are glad they still have Gilbride at their

“Yeah, definitely,” wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said when asked whether he’s
relieved when Gilbride returns each year. “We’ve been doing fine offensively
since I’ve been here. Eli (Manning) is doing good so I don’t see any need to

They’ve been better than good under Gilbride. Like Manning said of himself,
this offense is arguably elite."
</p>ROAD TO THE SUPER BOWL: GIANTS' BRAD BENSON HAS PLENTY TOP SAY, EVEN IF IT'S NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/road_to_the_super_bowl_giants.html)

"“Wait a sec,” he said, stopping about 10 yards away from the showroom door,
at the rear of a black SUV that was about the size of the USS Intrepid.

Brad Benson extended his right forefinger and rubbed it into the thick layer
of grime on the rear hatch, around shoulder level. He scribbled two four-letter
words, the first one being “COPS.” The second one was not vulgar, but it’s not
entirely fit for print, either. </p>

So this is how you treat vehicles that you don’t sell and service? </p>

“It’s okay, it belongs to a friend of mine.”</p>

Then you’re going to tell him you did that?</p>

“Nah, he’ll find out soon enough. Probably on the way home.” </p>

Bwah-ha-ha-ha. Or something like that. </p>

We were standing outside his auto dealership in South Brunswick, in the
shadow of the goal post he bought from the rummage sale at the old Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/) Stadium, and the conversation hasn’t
really started yet. </p>

So if you’re wondering whether the former Pro Bowl left tackle is like the
car salesman with the exuberantly sardonic chirp you hear a half-dozen times a
day on your favorite radio station, that vignette would be your first hint.</p>

We stopped by his Hyundai-Mitsubishi headquarters to kick off our Road To The
Super Bowl — or as it is also known, Getting to Loath Flyover Country in 700
Easy Miles — because we figured the first sojourn of this slushy journey should
involve someone who might want to give us a free car. Pass incomplete. </p>

It was still worth the trip to South Brunswick, because we wanted to tip our
cap to someone affiliated with the ’86 Giants — the team that made Jerseyans
have faith in the football gods, which is almost as fanciful as selling $20,000
products by insulting people on the radio for your own amusement.</p>

Benson, of course, has taken shots at everybody in his WFAN ads — from
presidents and governors, Pastor Terry Jones, BP, Sarah Palin, Plaxico Burress
and Roger Clemens, some of whom are honored with the “International Idiot”

Does it affect sales? He says he has the No. 1 Hyundai dealership in the
country, so perhaps the more relevant question is this: Who cares? </p>

“We tweak ’em all,” Benson boasts. “We’re an equal opportunity offender.”</p>

We thought that was merely harmless schtick, but actually, it’s what he is.
Only on this day, the grin isn’t as wide as usual because he’s preoccupied with
pain — he’s walking around campus like he’s carrying a balloon between his
knees. </p>

Turns out Benson injured himself last week on his 300-acre farm in
Hillsborough engaging in his favorite hobby: riding cutting horses, which is a
sport for the criminally insane. Essentially, the rider tries to separate the
calf from the rest of the herd, which sounds simple enough. Only you have to
drop the reins (them’s the rules), and the studs tend to get very ornery, so
these frisky beasts can throw even a former football player for great distances.

“It’s like drugs for me — the sport is so competitive, and the angles are the
same I used to have in football,” Benson explained. </p>

“But I had a wreck last weekend — the horse stood up and the saddle slid off,
and one vertabrae. … I had surgery on it once, so I hope I haven’t started up
anything again.”</p>

Even if that’s the case, the mouth works fine, and no subject is off limits.
All you have to do is let Benson riff: </p>

•?On Joe Paterno’s assessment of him after graduating from Penn State in ’76:
“He told the owner of the Patriots that he didn’t think I could play in the NFL.
I guess every man is entitled to his opinion, God bless his soul.” </p>

•?On Paterno’s culpability in the Sandusky affair: “Joe telling his boss what
was going on with Jerry Sandusky was ludicrous to me, because (athletic
director) Tim Curley wasn’t very high in the pecking order compared to Joe. …
Personally, I know if I missed a trigonometry class, Joe knew about it. So it
makes it hard for me to believe that something that big, he didn’t know about.”

•?On Bill Belichick: “I saw what he did for us (in ’86). It wouldn’t be
comforting to look across the field at him and know he had something to do with
the people who were lining up over me. I wouldn’t like that feeling, after
seeing what he did to really screw up some offenses.”</p>

•?On Harry Carson’s possible candidacy in the 5th congressional district:
“Intellectually sound guy. … (But) I don’t know if the water will run off his
back to be a politician. I know him to be a sincere, intuitive, caring type of
individual. I don’t know if he qualifies for” the political shark tank.</p>

•?On NFL defenses: “Defenses in the NFL are like suits for men — a good one
never goes out of style. They’re still running the same thing. If you have four
great defensive linemen, you’re going to go to a four-man front. The nickel is
still a nickel. And they’re still trying to recreate Lawrence” Taylor.</p>

•?On the key to Super Bowl XLVI: “I’m prejudiced — I think if the Giants’
offensive line can recover (from the NFC title game) and give Eli Manning time,
the Giants will win this game.” </p>

•?On whether he’ll attend the game: “I’d love to, but I got an 80-inch
screen. You know what I’ll do the whole game? It’s a habit I can’t break. I’ll
watch that left tackle — figure out whether they’ll pass or run depending on his

•?On what’s bugging him lately: “When I see three soccer fields get built to
one football field, it bothers me. Absolutely. When football is the American
sport? I know they’re gonna say a lot more kids can play at the same time, and
there’s fewer equipment (costs). But fewer injuries? Unequivocally not true. I
think it’s more of a multicultural experience that we’re trying to go to. And I
personally am not into that.”</p>

You get the idea: He’ll say just about anything, and probably already has.

Especially in his radio ads, which have provoked famous people and companies
alike — namely Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Hefner and Flintstone vitamins — to send him
cease and desist orders. </p>

But the commercials, judging by the jammed showroom, are doing their job. And
as we left, almost on cue, a familiar voice popped up on the radio, telling a
story about crashing a free car during prep week for SB XXI in Pasadena. “So,
who’s going to do something stupid next week in Indianapolis?” Benson asks. “Go
to my Facebook page and submit your answer …”</p>

It was at that moment we felt a great relief that we remembered to get the
car washed."</p>SUPER BOWL: GIANTS' STEVE DEOSSIE SHOWS PRIDE FOR HIS SON AND FORMER TEAM DEEP IN ENEMY TERRITORY (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/super_bowl_giants_steve_deossi.html)

"The tall leather banquettes, and deep wood tables and chairs, were “made for
football players,” the maître d’ explains proudly. The cuts of steak, like the
bone-in marbled rib-eye, are just as generously sized.

And the décor? Fred &amp; Steve’s Steakhouse could be considered a haven for
Giants fans. In the heart of New England Patriots territory.</p>

“Blood is thicker than anything,” Steve DeOssie, the Steve in Fred &amp;
Steve’s, says with a wide grin.</p>

DeOssie, of course, is the former Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/) linebacker and long snapper whose
gold-and-diamond Super Bowl XXV ring flashed over dinner Friday night. He takes
more pride in the Super Bowl XLII ring his son, current Giants long snapper Zak
DeOssie, earned four years ago — and Zak’s chance for another next week in

About 98 percent of the patrons at Fred &amp; Steve’s offer DeOssie
congratulations — good luck might be a bit much to ask — as the Giants and
Patriots’ ballyhooed rematch nears. Then, there is the small sliver of rabid New
England fans, like the buddy that texted after the championship games last
Sunday: “(Bleep) you and your son! The Patriots are going to kill them.”</p>

“The problem is, he was relatively serious,” DeOssie said, shaking his head.
“Come on.”</p>

DeOssie’s Super Bowl XXV replica trophy is displayed behind the bar,
extracted from his son’s closet when he and Fred Smerlas, his close friend and
former NFL nose tackle, opened the restaurant about 10 miles north of Providence
in 2007. </p>

Above one dining booth hangs DeOssie’s game-worn jersey from the infamous
“Wide Right Game.” In the next is a custom blue jersey with Steve’s No. 99 on
one side and Zak’s No. 51 on the other, plus each of their Super Bowl patches.
The Giants mega-fan known as “License Plate Guy” made it for Zak, who told his
dad, “This belongs in the restaurant.”</p>

But if any of the memorabilia makes Patriots fans cringe, particularly this
week, the irony is that Steve DeOssie has strong New England ties of his

He has lived in Boston most of his life. He finished his NFL career with the
Patriots, too, lured out of possible retirement by none other than Bill
Parcells, his coach with the Giants. And since 1996, he has been a voice of
Patriots coverage on radio and TV in Boston, so he’ll be broadcasting from
Indianapolis all week.</p>

In 2007 — when he and Zak became the first father-son duo to win Super Bowls
with the same franchise — he picked against his son’s team on-air.</p>

“I didn’t think the Giants had a chance last time,” DeOssie admits. “I told
Zak, ‘Hey, doesn’t mean I don’t love you.’?”</p>

DeOssie is more confident in the Giants this year. So confident, that he
didn’t get too irked when he had to host the Patriots’ post-game show from
Foxborough last Sunday, instead of being able to travel to San Francisco. He was
certain the Giants would advance.</p>

He was right, though not without some nail-biting. The show wrapped just
before halftime of the NFC Championship Game, and he raced to his favorite cigar
bar in Boston. When the Giants lined up for the winning field goal in overtime,
DeOssie couldn’t watch his son’s snap, or the hold, or the kick.
</p>“I turned away and paced,” DeOssie said. “And when I heard my buddies
screaming, I turned back and watched.”

Fifteen minutes later, DeOssie’s girlfriend sent him a picture of the kick
from behind. Something about it — the backdrop at Candlestick Park, a kicker
wearing No. 9 — took him back to the game-winning field goal he snapped for in
the NFC Championship Game two decades ago.</p>

DeOssie dialed Matt Bahr, his Lawrence Tynes on that magical day. This fact
humbles him: The Giants have advanced to four Super Bowls since 1990, and three
times they have gotten there with a game-ending field goal snapped by a DeOssie.

DeOssie played for four professional teams, but his ties to the Giants run
the deepest. Part of it is the championship he won with the team. Part of it is
his personal respect for late owner Wellington Mara, whom DeOssie said provided
him with the help he needed to beat his mid-career slip into alcohol and drugs —
without judgment or professional repercussions. </p>

The biggest reason now, of course, is Zak.</p>

After the Giants’ divisional playoff win at Green Bay, they met at the
post-game tailgate Packers fans graciously host for the visiting team, win or
lose. </p>

“I served your father beer and brats 20 years ago,” one Packers fan told

“Can I have another?” Steve asked.
</p>Less fun are the calls DeOssie receives a few times a year, after Zak has
heard a story about his dad from someone in the Giants' organization. “Did you
ever …” Zak will ask. DeOssie universally fires back, “I deny it!”

Fred &amp; Steve’s opened the spring Zak was drafted by the Giants in 2007.
Less than a year later, the team gathered there to celebrate the Super Bowl
victory. DeOssie hopes he will be hosting another such party this year.</p>

His Pats-loving clientele might have something to say about it, but a third
ring in the family would mean the most.</p>

“He already shows me how big his ring is compared to mine,” DeOssie said. “I
told him my team was a lot better.”</p>http://www.nj.com/giants/
[b]<font size="4"><u>NY DAILY NEWS
LUPICA: GIANTS TAKING AIM AT LOST YEAR (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/aim-a-lost-year-article-1.1013514)

Excerpt: "These days we talk and talk about the 2007 Giants, a team that came on at the
end the way it did and beat the Patriots in Super Bowl 42. How can we not talk
about that team now that this Giants team comes on at the end the way it
does and plays the Patriots in Super Bowl 46. Those Giants beat the Bucs in the
playoffs, then the 13-3 Cowboys on the road, then the Packers at Lambeau in
overtime in the NFC Championship Game, finally the Patriots. These Giants have
beaten the Falcons, the Packers at Lambeau, finally the 13-3 49ers in overtime
in the NFC Championship Game. And get the Patriots again.<div style="BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none; TEXT-ALIGN: left; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff; COLOR: #000000; OVERFLOW: hidden; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; TEXT-DECORATION: none">

Lawrence Tynes (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Lawrence+Tynes)
kicked the field goal that put the Giants into the Super Bowl four years ago,
Tynes kicked the field goal that put them in the Super Bowl this time. It is why
Osi Umenyiora (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Osi+Umenyiora) looked
at Tom Coughlin (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Tom+Coughlin) last
week, in the locker room at Candlestick Park, and said, “Do you realize how this
is all going down?”</p>

Everybody does, especially Giants fans who think they are going to do it to
Belichick and Brady and the Patriots all over again.</p>

But when you look at this Giants team, the way it is playing right now, you
see something else, four years after Glendale, Ariz.: See the team and the title
defense it was making in the ’08 season before Plaxico Burress (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Plaxico+Burress)
turned into a complete bonehead, went clubbing with an unlicensed handgun in New
York City, shot himself in the leg, did as much damage as one player can do to a
team on its way to winning two Super Bowls in a row.</p>

Coughlin was talking to me about that the other day, about the Giants’ record
when Burress shot himself and ended up in the hospital before he went off to
spend two years in jail. Coughlin was polite enough to simply say what happened
to Burress “threw us off.”</p>

If you watched the season, if you saw what happened after <a title="Eli Manning" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Eli+Manning">Eli
Manning</a> lost his biggest target and favorite receiver, the receiver who
played so brilliantly in the cold of Lambeau and then caught the pass that won
the Super Bowl, you know it was a lot more than that. The Giants looked helpless
on offense against the Eagles in the playoffs after a regular season when they
had beaten all the teams that would eventually make the final four in the

Steelers, Ravens, Eagles, Cardinals.</p>

If they had beaten the Eagles in the playoffs, that January Sunday at old
Giants Stadium, all that would have stood between them and the Super Bowl — and
a rematch against a Steelers team they had already beaten in Pittsburgh — was a
home NFC Championship Game against the Cardinals."
</p></div>EXPERTS AGREE; ELI IS AMONG THE LEAGUES ELITE (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/experts-agree-eli-manning-nfl-elite-quarterbacks-article-1.1013577)

Excerpt: "When the laughter subsided this summer after Eli Manning (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Eli+Manning) declared he
was in Tom Brady (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Tom+Brady)’s class, he
left himself with a nearly impossible job: Go prove it.<div style="BORDER-BOTTOM: medium none; TEXT-ALIGN: left; BORDER-LEFT: medium none; BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff; COLOR: #000000; OVERFLOW: hidden; BORDER-TOP: medium none; BORDER-RIGHT: medium none; TEXT-DECORATION: none"><div class="story-body">

If Manning stood nearly alone at the time thinking he was an elite
quarterback, he has made believers around the NFL. “Eli (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Elite+Eli) has been the best
quarterback in football the last month,”
one former head coach said. “It’s
not even close.”</p>

Manning closed the gap on Brady, Aaron Rodgers (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Aaron+Rodgers) and <a title="Drew Brees" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Drew+Brees">Drew
Brees</a> with the best season of his eight-year career, and if he beats Brady
in the Super Bowl for a second time next Sunday, then it might jump him to the
head of the quarterback class and secure him a place in the Pro Football Hall of

But where does Manning stand among the game’s elite going into Super Bowl
XLVI in Indianapolis against the Patriots?</p>

The Daily News convened a 12-member blue-ribbon panel to vote on the top five
quarterbacks. The panel is comprised of current coaches and general managers,
former coaches and general managers and two former Super Bowl quarterbacks.</p>

The guidelines were narrow and focused: The best quarterbacks in the league
right now, not who has had the best career. Peyton Manning (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Peyton+Manning) was
off the ballot. He did not play in 2011 and his neck issues put in doubt</p>

whether he will play again.</p>

Five points were awarded for first place, four for second, three for third,
two for fourth and one for fifth.</p>

Here are the top five in order:</p>

- Tom Brady, Patriots: He received five first-place votes, the same as Aaron
Rodgers, and 49 of a possible 60 points. He finished one point ahead of

- Aaron Rodgers, Packers: He had perhaps the best regular season for a
quarterback in NFL history, but Brady has three Super Bowl rings to his one.</p>

- Drew Brees, Saints: He set the single-season yardage record, but received
only two first-place votes.</p>

- Eli Manning, Giants: After the big three of Brady, Rodgers and Brees - they
were the only QBs to receive first- or second place votes - there was a 21-point
drop from Brees to Manning, but Elite Eli had a significant edge over Big Ben
for fourth place. He was named on 11 of the 12 ballots.</p>

- <a title="Ben Roethlisberger" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Ben+Roethlisberger">Ben
Roethlisberger</a>, Steelers: Big Ben - the player the Giants would have drafted
if they were unable to trade for Manning in 2004 - finished 10 points behind

I also asked the panelists: Who would you rather have starting in the Super
Bowl next Sunday: Brady or Manning. It was a lopsided 10-2 for Brady. “How could
you say you wouldn’t want somebody who has been to five Super Bowls?” one former
coach said. “But Eli doesn't flinch. You couldn’t go wrong with either one of
them.” Read more:
</p></div></div>FIVE UNSUNG GIANTS WHO HELPED MAKE RUN TO SUPER BOWL POSSIBLE (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/unsung-ny-giants-helped-run-super-bowl-xlvi-article-1.1013394)

"Eli Manning (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Eli+Manning) shattered
team passing records, and Jason Pierre-Paul (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Jason+Pierre-Paul)
became a feared force. Victor Cruz (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Victor+Cruz) broke out,
and Justin Tuck (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Justin+Tuck)
rediscovered his fury late in the season.

But when GM Jerry Reese (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Jerry+Reese)
evaluates how his Giants made this stunning run to Super Bowl XLVI, he doesn't
always point to those obvious stars. The architect of Big Blue understands that
his team has also been buoyed by some unknown players thrust into quietly
important roles.

"Most championships, you've got to have a little bit of
luck, and somebody's got to come out of the shadows to make a play," he said
after the Giants won the NFC title last Sunday. "Somebody you don't expect to
make a play comes out of the shadows to make a couple plays. It happens every

That has happened for the Giants this season, allowing them to
overcome a grueling schedule and survive the losses of more than a half-dozen
key players to season-ending injuries.

Why are they in Indianapolis?
Sure, Eli, JPP and Cruuuuz have plenty to do with it. So do these five far
less-celebrated heroes:

<a title="Henry Hynoski" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Henry+Hynoski">HENRY

The rookie fullback from Pitt didn't have a carry
during the regular season and he caught only 12 passes. But when Hynoski was not
available, his absence was noted.

In the first five games of the season,
the 6-1, 266-pound rookie emerged as a solid run blocker, but he suffered a neck
injury against Seattle. He would miss the next five games before finally
returning in the Nov. 28 loss at New Orleans.

One week later, the
much-maligned run game finally enjoyed a solid performance, totaling 100 yards
and averaging 5.0 yards per carry in the loss to Green Bay. Offensive
coordinator Kevin Gilbride (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Kevin+Gilbride) still
points to that game as the turning point for his struggling ground game, and
Hynoski had plenty to do with it.

"He's very important," said backup quarterback David Carr (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/David+Carr).
"He's a bull of a blocker. And he can do more than that, too."

blocking has drawn loads of attention, but he has quietly emerged as a solid
receiving threat out of the backfield as well. Defenses must account for him; if
they don't, he can catch three passes for 20 yards, as he did last week in San

"A lot of people don't realize he was a third-down back at
Pitt," Carr said. "He's more than a bull. He can catch the

<a title="Devin Thomas" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Devin+Thomas">DEVIN

Even before he recovered a pair of fumbled punt
returns against the Niners (one was a muff), the unheralded Thomas was making
key contributions on special teams.

The former Redskins castoff began the
season as Big Blue's kick returner, but he was demoted in November. Initially,
he seemed to sulk, but by December, he had reinvented himself as a dangerous
gunner on special teams.

"It was frustrating," he says of his demotion.
"But I just have to use my athleticism to contribute any way I can. I'm starting
to get a little niche."

It was hardly glamorous, but the erstwhile
second-round pick embraced his new role. When the Giants played the Redskins in
December, Thomas had established himself as a kamikaze special teams force.
Twice in that game, he kept dangerous Washington return man Brandon Banks (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Brandon+Banks) from
breaking a big return. Thomas suffered a scary stinger at halftime of that game,
but he had already impressed his teammates. Thomas also started taking advantage
of his rare opportunities as a receiver; late in the first quarter of the
Giants' 31-14 win over the Cowboys, his gritty 14-yard catch on third-and-8 from
the Dallas 48 helped set up Big Blue's second TD. This new Devin Thomas can
catch passes, make defensive plays and return kicks when needed, and that has
given Big Blue's roster flexibility, allowing the Giants to deactivate
one-dimensional players such as KR Da'Rel Scott (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Da%27Rel+Scott) and
disappointing <a title="Ramses Barden" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Ramses+Barden">WR Ramses

<a title="Kevin Boothe" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Kevin+Boothe">KEVIN

At the start of the season, Reese described the 6-5,
320-pound Boothe as an offseason "priority," a notion that made fans scoff at
the Giants' hopes for 2011.

Five months later, everyone understands. Once
a preseason punchline, the versatile lineman has become the ultimate
hole-plugger on a unit that has been hammered by injuries.

"Kevin's done
a great job for us, whether he has to play center, whether he has to play
guard," Manning said. "Sometimes he plays both of them in the same game for a
few plays."

Boothe began the year on the bench, but he ably filled in for
center David Baas (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/David+Baas) when the
prized free agent battled neck and knee injuries early in the season. By Week 6
against the Buffalo Bills, Boothe was lining up alongside Baas at right guard,
clearing holes as Ahmad Bradshaw (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Ahmad+Bradshaw)
recorded his lone 100-yard rushing effort of 2011.

A month later, when
left tackle Will Beatty (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Will+Beatty) landed on
injured reserve with a detached retina, Boothe moved to left guard, allowing <a title="David Diehl" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/David+Diehl">David
Diehl</a> to slide to left tackle. It was the sixth-year lineman's final move in
a season that more than justified Reese's preseason excitement.

been very important to this team," said Manning, "and given us that comfort
knowing that whatever happens amongst the offensive line, if a guy gets banged
up a little bit or goes down, that Kevin can come in and play a number of

<a title="Linval Joseph" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Linval+Joseph">LINVAL

The Giants struggled to defend the run, surrendering
a whopping 121.3 yards on the ground this season. But as the season wore on,
they gradually improved, especially on gritty runs up the middle.

in large part to the maturation of Joseph, the Giants' interior run defense has
solidified in the postseason, because the massive Joseph, a second-round pick in
2010, has gradually asserted himself as a run-stopping force.

"I think
Linval's been playing good for us throughout the second half of the football
season," said defensive coordinator Perry Fewell (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Perry+Fewell). "I think
Linval's just growing up. He's really a rookie, so to speak."

played sparingly in just six games last season, but he has started regularly
this year. He's also slimmed down to 323 pounds, getting quicker and improving
his defensive footwork. He began the season slowly, but by the time the Giants
played Green Bay in the regular season, he had found his place.

recorded a career-high nine tackles in that game as the Giants limited the
Packers to 89 yards on the ground in a 38-35 loss. He has continued that hot
play through the postseason. Neither the Falcons nor the Packers cracked 100
rushing yards against the Giants, and while the 49ers managed 150 yards, 42 of
those came from scrambling <a title="Alex Smith (Quarterback)" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Alex+Smith+%28Quarterback%29">QB Alex

"I think Linval's just growing up a little bit," Fewell said.
"He's just turned it loose, and he's really playing well right now with a lot of


Tollefson, 28, had
never started an NFL game in his career until this season. But with Justin Tuck
and Osi Umenyiora (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Osi+Umenyiora) nursing
injuries in the opener at Washington, he got his chance, and he made the most of
it, delivering two tackles and a sack.

"I could kind of feel it was
coming," Tollefson said. "I had a great offseason, and whenever I've ever
played, I've done a really good job."

Tuck and Umenyiora would eventually
get healthy, but Tollefson *— all 266 pounds of him — remained a fixture along
the Giants defensive line. He was a capable defensive end, but he was also
physical enough to line up at tackle, battling beefy offensive linemen

Tollefson finished the season with a career-high five sacks,
tying Tuck for third-best on the team, and his emergence allowed Fewell to
experiment more with his defensive linemen. By the postseason, the Giants were
occasionally lining Tollefson and dangerous linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Mathias+Kiwanuka)
up at defensive tackle, setting Umenyiora and near-unstoppable JPP up at end,
and letting Tuck function as a giant-sized, stand-up linebacker in a
pass-rushing alignment that routinely flummoxed opposing

Tollefson rarely made plays in these settings — he hasn't
recorded a single tackle in the playoffs — but his fierce inside play still drew
offenses' attention, freeing up his more celebrated teammates for

"Anything to contribute, man," he said."</p>

KEVIN GILBRIDE'S "OPTION" OFFENSE IN PASSING GAME FUELS GIANTS (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/kevin-gilbride-option-offense-passing-game-fuels-ny-giants-article-1.1013448)</p>

"The hands clap and the huddle breaks and the receivers jog out to their
positions. Kevin Gilbride (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Kevin+Gilbride) has
already relayed the play to Eli Manning (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Eli+Manning), but the
receivers still have no idea where they’re going to go.</p>

That’s part of the beauty of the Gilbride offense. Everything the receivers
do is based on what happens next. Is there man-to-man coverage or a zone? Which
way are the safeties shading? Are the corners pressing on the line or leaving a
cushion?</p><div><div class="story-body">

Then, when the ball is snapped and the defense goes in motion, everything
could change...again.</p>

“Yeah, it’s definitely tough,” says receiver Victor Cruz (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Victor+Cruz). “It’s one
of the biggest things I had to adjust to, learning how to read coverages and
adjust mid-route. We had a few read-routes in college, but nothing to this
extent where it’s 15 yards down field and you have to make an adjustment.
Sometimes they may line up one way, then when the ball comes they move to
somewhere else. So you have to see all of that.”</p>

It’s a demanding system. It can be confusing. It can be frustrating, too,
especially to a young player. It’s also explosive, “quarterback-friendly,”
potent, and the most prolific offensive system the Giants franchise has ever

“That’s the beauty of it,” says backup quarterback David Carr (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/David+Carr).
“When we’re rolling, it’s hard to stop.”</p>

That’s what the 60-year-old Gilbride has created in his eighth season with
the Giants and fifth since taking over as the offensive coordinator. He’s helped
turn Eli Manning from an erratic, interception-prone quarterback into a
near-5,000-yard passer. He’s built an offensive machine that has rallied from
six fourth-quarter deficits this year. It can strike so quickly, the Giants
never feel like they’re out of a game.</p>

And he’s done that with a rebuilding offensive line, the 32nd-ranked rushing
attack in the league, and a tight end (Jake Ballard (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Jake+Ballard)) and star
receiver (Victor Cruz) who had never had a single catch in the NFL before this

Manning gets all the credit, and much of it is deserved. But it’s not like
he’s on the field drawing up plays in the dirt.</p>

“Eli’s playing so well and that’s a tribute to Kevin,” says former Giants
quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Chris+Palmer), who is
now the offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. “The guy is an
outstanding football coach and does a great job. What is perceived about him and
what is real is not necessarily one and the same. Kevin should get a lot of
credit for the success they’ve had this year.”</p>

Ask anyone in the locker room, and Gilbride does get the credit. <a title="Tom Coughlin" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Tom+Coughlin">Tom
Coughlin</a> praises his ability as a teacher and his players praise his
patience and the way he calls a game. It drives them crazy that he’s a target
for angry fans, who sometimes call him “Killdrive” when games don’t go the
Giants’ way.
</p></div>He’s always had a reputation problem, though, dating back to his days running
the run-and-shoot offense with the Houston Oilers (1990-94). Gilbride got a
label he couldn’t shake when former Oilers defensive coordinator <a title="Buddy Ryan" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Buddy+Ryan">Buddy
Ryan</a> famously called his wide-open passing attack the “chuck-and-duck” and
then even more famously when Rex’s dad tried to punch him on the sidelines in
the middle of a game.<div><div class="story-body">

Yes, Gilbride may look like a pass-happy coordinator at times, but it’s easy
to forget that in 2008 the Giants had the NFL’s seventh-best offense with the
No. 1 rushing attack. In fact, in three of his five seasons as offensive
coordinator, the Giants’ rushing attack was ranked higher than its passing
attack in the league.</p>

What makes Gilbride appear pass-happy is this: He runs what everyone
considers a “quarterback-friendly” offense that puts a lot of responsibility on
the receivers and control in the quarterbacks’ hands. They throw because they
can. And it works.</p>

“A lot is asked of the quarterback,” Carr says. “You’ve got the freedom to do
pretty much whatever you want. The playbook’s open to you. You’ve got to be on
your game. But if you are, it’s a great thing.”</p>

Explained very simply, Manning has the ability to change the play to almost
anything in that week’s game plan, based on what he sees in the defensive
alignment. And when he calls a pass play, the receivers have several options to
change their routes on each play, depending on what the defense does. It’s
complicated and hard to learn, and it can be very tricky for the quarterback and
receiver to make sure they’re seeing exactly the same thing out of each

Because there are so many options in Gilbride’s offense, though, when it’s
run correctly there are more chances for it to work.</p>

“You give the receivers several options to get open and when guys get open
you, as a quarterback, have an opportunity to throw the ball,” Palmer says.
“When a receiver doesn’t get open, that becomes a burden. It’s reassuring to the
quarterback that ‘Hey, one of these guys are going to get open.’ I would say on
most plays there’s going to be a guy that’s open in this offense.”</p>

“I’ve been in offenses where it’s all based on progressions - 1, 2, 3, find
the back,” Carr adds. “There’s some of that. But we’re trying to scheme. We’re
trying to find the best possible play vs. that defense at that time to just gash
them. That’s why it works.”</p>

It also works because Gilbride is an outstanding teacher and someone that, as
Coughlin says, can “evaluate your talent and see what they can and cannot do.”
He was the quarterbacks coach through the first three years of Manning’s career,
learned his strengths and his weaknesses well, developed a special bond with him
and helped him grow into the Pro Bowler he is today.
</p></div>“Coach Gilbride and I have a very close relationship,” Manning says. “When I
first got here, he was the quarterbacks coach, so I got to kind of learn from
him, and hearing him directly and watching old film of the Oilers and different
things when they were running it. We think the same way on a lot of things and
certain looks. A lot of times he doesn’t even need to finish his sentence,
because I’m already on the same page.”<div><div class="story-body">

Sure, it helps that Gilbride likes to throw. A lot. He even jokes that
Coughlin sometimes sits in on the offensive meetings just “to make sure I don’t
veer too far off of the reservation and throw the ball 65 times in a game or
something like that.” Manning says Gilbride calls plays with “a quarterback
mentality.” And while he’ll go with whatever’s working, it’s obvious what he

“If we’re not running it really well and we’re throwing it well, I’ll just go
up to him and say, ‘Hey, they can’t stop us throwing it. Let’s just keep
throwing it,’?” Manning says. “And he kind of gets a smile. I think that’s what
he likes to hear.”</p>

That’s the way the NFL is now - a pass-first league - which makes Gilbride
the ideal offensive coordinator for this era. If he were 15 years younger his
work with the Giants might have already earned him a head coaching job
somewhere. He’d probably still be an attractive candidate if he hadn’t already
had a failed stint as a head coach with the San Diego Chargers in 1997-98, when
he was run out of town with a 6-16 record after he couldn’t connect with his
hot-headed rookie quarterback, Ryan Leaf (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Ryan+Leaf).</p>

When those 22 games are added to his image problem, it helps paint a picture
that belies the numbers his offenses regularly produce. It also paints a picture
his players believe is completely unfair.</p>

“I don’t think he gets enough credit,” says guard Chris Snee (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Chris+Snee). “I
feel like I always hear a lot of negative stuff about him. He’s the first one
everyone wants to blame for play calling and things like that, but I think he
does a great job.”</p>

Some might say it’s the best job Gilbride has done in his five years running
the Giants’ offense.</p>

Considering the players the Giants lost before the season started, the
injuries that forced him to reshuffle his line and play four games without his
starting running back, and how he helped turn a blocking tight end and an
unknown receiver into stars, it might be the best job he’s done in his 23 years
in the league.</p>

“I’d rather let you answer that than me,” Gilbride says. “Let me just say
that I’m very proud of the guys that I work with. We started with five new guys
and then we had all of the injuries and the youth and the guys who haven’t
played and some of the things that we ask them to do. You don’t just, in our
offense, go out and run a 12-yard curl or a 10-yard in-cut. We ask them to read
a lot of things. We put a lot of pressure on receivers to see things as a
quarterback would. It’s very difficult as a coach to get those things

“So to see them grow like that - obviously, what are you? You’re a teacher.
When you’re a teacher and you can see your pupils getting better and feel like
you contributed, you’re very proud of their growth and development. So you feel,
‘Maybe I helped them a little bit.’”</p>

Not that he ever gets the credit for that. He’s too busy taking the blame
when everything doesn’t work to perfection.</p>

“I think it’s just the nature of the position,” Carr says. “I think he does a
good job just by not paying attention to it. He’s going to be who he is.
Nobody’s going to change him now.”</p></div>GIANTS' WR VICTOR CRUZ'S TEN MOST MEMORABLE PLAYS OF THE SEASON (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/giants/ny-giants-wide-receiver-victor-cruz-10-memorable-plays-year-article-1.1013412)

"All the Giants wanted Victor Cruz (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Victor+Cruz) to be was a
serviceable slot receiver. What they got was much more.<div><div class="story-body">

When the 2011 season began, nobody knew what to expect from Cruz. The
second-year receiver was tasked with replacing veteran <a title="Steve Smith (New York Giants)" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Steve+Smith+%28New+York+Giants%29">Steve
Smith</a>, but he had little on his resume, save for one explosive preseason
game against the Jets.</p>

Five months and 82 Cruz catches later, the Giants are preparing to face the
New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, and that's largely thanks to the
big-play talents of their once-unknown wideout, who set a franchise record with
1,536 regular-season receiving yards and transformed the salsa dance into a
national phenomenon.</p>

"Every step of the way, I've just tried my hardest and whatever opportunity
came my way, I just tried to take advantage of it. I understood that these
opportunities were going to come few and far between," Cruz says.</p>

The 24-year-old has seized every one, becoming Eli Manning (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Eli+Manning)'s favorite
target and making big play after big play. Here, we look at our favorite Victor
Cruz moments this season.</p>

1. BACKING UP HIS WORDS…at Jets, Dec. 24</p>

In the days leading up to this Christmas Eve clash, Cruz has talked of not
being afraid of Darrelle Revis (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Darrelle+Revis), and
Revis has retorted that he doesn't even know who Victor Cruz is. And right now,
with 2:27 left in the first half and the Giants trailing, 7-3, Revis seems to be

Then Cruz backs up his own talk. On third-and-10 from his own 1, he lines up
in the slot, dashes 10 yards, then turns out, just in time to snare Manning's
pass. As corner Kyle Wilson (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Kyle+Wilson+%28Football%29)
flails after him, Cruz sidesteps <a title="Antonio Cromartie" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Antonio+Cromartie">Antonio
Cromartie</a>. No Jet can catch him, not even <a title="Eric Smith (Defensive Back)" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Eric+Smith+%28Defensive+Back%29">safety Eric
Smith</a>, who dives at the 45.</p>

Cruz cruises into the end zone. He's just recorded the franchise's first-ever
99-yard play from scrimmage and infused his Giants with life. Big Blue outscores
the Jets, 19-7, the rest of the afternoon on the way to a season-saving 29-14
win. And by the end of the day, Cruz has passed Amani Toomer (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Amani+Toomer), setting
a club record with 1,358 receiving yards.</p>

"It's just a surreal moment for me," he says. "It's amazing man."</p>

2. THE BREAKOUT…at Eagles, Sept. 25</p>

This is where it all begins. Cruz enters this game with just two catches on
his NFL resume, but with Mario Manningham (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Mario+Manningham)
injured, he must deliver. On third-and-2 from the 26, with 1:02 to play in the
first quarter, Cruz finds himself in the slot.</p>

He slants out and catches a quick Manning throw around the 36. <a title="Corner Kurt Coleman" href="http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Corner+Kurt+Coleman">Corner Kurt
Coleman</a>, tries for the big hit and misses, allowing Cruz to race past.
Coleman pursues, and Nnamdi Asomugha (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Nnamdi+Asomugha)
tries to close in near midfield, but Cruz deftly eludes both players. As Coleman
and Asomugha collide, Cruz is off to the races, scoring his first NFL TD on a
74-yard catch and staking the Giants to an early 14-0
</p></div>3. THE BREAKOUT, PART 2…at Eagles, Sept. 25<div><div class="story-body">

It was a nice first quarter, but the Eagles have clawed back, taking a 16-14
lead into the fourth quarter. But finally, the Giants offense is clicking again,
and Manning has the Giants at the Eagles 28. With 8:15 to play, he drops back
and uncorks a deep pass just before he gets hit.</p>

The throw seems risky, but it's not. Cruz blocks out Asomugha at the 1-yard
line, then outjumps the ballyhooed corner and safety Jarrad Page (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Jarrad+Page) to
make the catch. As both players fall to the ground, Cruz reaches the ball over
the goal line, scoring his second career TD and putting the Giants in front for
good. They go on to win, 29-14.</p>

"There's no way he should have come away with that with two guys there," a
frustrated Asomugha says afterwards. "One of us should have gone up and made
that play."</p>

4. THE JUGGLING ACT…vs. Seahawks, Oct. 9</p>

Just 13 minutes remain, and the Giants are trailing Seattle, 19-14. They face
third-and 13 from their own 32, and a desperate Manning heaves the ball toward
the right sideline toward a double-covered Cruz near the Seattle 30.</p>

The ball should be batted away, but Seattle's Kam Chancellor (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Kam+Chancellor) only
tips it, giving Cruz a chance. The opportunistic receiver reaches his right hand
out and cradles the ball, tapping it to himself as he runs away from CB Richard Sherman (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Richard+Sherman)
and scampers into the end zone. The TD puts the Giants back in front, and while
the Giants eventually lose, 36-25, Manning is impressed with Cruz after this

"He makes a lot of big plays and he's understanding the offense and what he
needs to do," Manning said. "He's still a young player. There's still room to

5. THE GAME-WINNER…vs. Dolphins, Oct. 30</p>

It shouldn't have come to this, not against the winless Miami Dolphins. But
somehow, the Giants are trailing, 17-13, with 8:28 to play. In two minutes,
Manning drives Big Blue down to the Miami 25, but he's just missed Manningham in
the end zone.</p>

On third-and-12, Cruz works his way open, catching a pass at the 14. Former
Giant Will Allen (http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Will+Allen+%28Cornerback%29)
tries to wrestle Cruz to the ground, but the wideout deftly spins off and dashes
into the end zone, giving the Giants a 20-17 lead, the

01-29-2012, 12:20 PM
Good Morning. I love sitting in my breakfast room with the sunlight streaming in, a hot cup of coffee and my computer, sitting here reading your column. It's one of my favorite things to do. TY.

01-29-2012, 02:25 PM
Good Morning. I love sitting in my breakfast room with the sunlight streaming in, a hot cup of coffee and my computer, sitting here reading your column. It's one of my favorite things to do. TY.

Just wait until next Monday morning [;)]

01-29-2012, 04:56 PM
Good Morning. I love sitting in my breakfast room with the sunlight streaming in, a hot cup of coffee and my computer, sitting here reading your column. It's one of my favorite things to do. TY.

Just wait until next Monday morning [;)]



ive already cleared out a portion in the library for the news next Monday! lol.</P>

thanks Roanoke!</P>

01-29-2012, 05:05 PM
Good Morning. I love sitting in my breakfast room with the sunlight streaming in, a hot cup of coffee and my computer, sitting here reading your column. It's one of my favorite things to do. TY.

Just wait until next Monday morning [;)]



ive already cleared out a portion in the library for the news next Monday! lol.</p>

thanks Roanoke!</p>


01-29-2012, 05:27 PM

01-29-2012, 07:40 PM
Thanks RF! Love the article on the scout team. That is ALL-IN right there!

01-29-2012, 08:12 PM


01-29-2012, 08:13 PM
Thanks RF! Love the article on the scout team. That is ALL-IN right there!


01-29-2012, 08:30 PM
Great job again RF Thanks for all the info.

01-29-2012, 08:44 PM
Great job again RF Thanks for all the info.

News will pick up big time again on Wednesday. Tomorrow the GIANTS arrive in Indy and may have a walk through. Tuesday is probably still a day off and then Wednesday it will be non-stop news.

01-29-2012, 08:45 PM
Great job again RF Thanks for all the info.

News will pick up big time again on Wednesday. Tomorrow the GIANTS arrive in Indy and may have a walk through. Tuesday is probably still a day off and then Wednesday it will be non-stop news.