For the NFC champions, Cruz, Nicks and Manningham provide inspiration through timely touchdowns. It’s what they do. The Giants have one game remaining against the AFC champion New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, Sunday in Indianapolis, and wideout definitely is not one of their concerns.
“We’ve got some great young talent around here,” Nicks told reporters last week while the Giants began preparing for the title game at Lucas Oil Stadium, “and we’re all capable of making plays whenever we have to.”
Heading into the season, Reese was under fire. The New York Jets signed Plaxico Burress, formerly the Giants’ No. 1 wide receiver, following his release from prison. Wideout Steve Smith unexpectedly joined division rival Philadelphia and tight end Kevin Boss bolted for the Oakland Raiders.
Despite intense media and fan criticism, Reese stuck to his plan, expressing confidence the Giants “have some young guys who we expect to step up.” They did.
Quarterback Eli Manning’s favorite targets, each under the age of 26, are game-changers. They have a flair for the dramatic. When the Giants need something extra on offense — an in-game boost or a closing kick — they focus downfield. And, really, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work?
Around these parts, we’re not used to seeing dynamic performances from that position (or most on offense, for that matter). For too long now, the Washington Redskins’ offense has been way too vanilla. Redskins fans may not realize it, but there are no rules limiting exciting catch-and run plays.
“We love making big plays,” Manningham said. “Sometimes, we joke around and see who is going to make the first big play. That’s how our receiving corps is. We don’t wait for someone to make a play — we go make it.”
The wideouts played a big part in New York salvaging its season, putting the team in position for a once-improbable Super Bowl appearance.
Remember, at one point, the Giants had lost four in a row to drop to 6-6. Washington even defeated them twice (surprises do happen).
The Giants, however, got a smashing, highly unexpected breakout performance from Cruz, an undrafted second-year player. They received another big year from Nicks, the guy Reese picked to replace Burress, which he has done well. Manningham overcame injuries and put aside his ego when he returned, enabling it to all come together.
“You swallow your pride and know what you’re here for,” Manningham said. “You’re here to win, so as long as you win, you can’t complain.”