PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Victor Cruz never caught a touchdown pass before in an NFL game. He did on Sunday. Twice. Against the vaunted Eagles’ secondary. They made the undersized, undrafted New York Giants’ receiver making his first career NFL start look like Jerry Rice, coming up with two touchdown catches.
Cruz’s fourth-quarter pulldown between two Eagles’ defenders resulted in the winning difference in the Giants’ surprising 29-16 victory, spoiling the Eagles’ home opener at Lincoln Financial Field.
The victory gives the Giants a 2-1 record, while the Eagles sank to 1-2 and, more importantly, face an uncertain future with Michael Vick suffering a broken right hand in the third quarter, when he landed on his right hand after getting knocked down by Giants’ defensive tackle Chris Canty. Speculation is that Vick could be out three to four weeks, even though the injury is on his non-throwing hand, and the span of time Vick could be out includes the Eagles’ bye week.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: It was later determined by the Eagles that Vick’s hand was bruised, not broken. See related story.]
“It was on the [23-yard, third-quarter] pass to Jeremy [Maclin], just an unfortunate situation,” said Vick, who completed 16 of 23 for 176 yards and an interception. “After such a great play, I felt like I got hit late. There was no flag. Broke my hand. It really doesn’t matter where [the hand] was [hit]. I was trying to protect myself. Still didn’t get a flag and that’s pretty much been the story for the last three weeks. I mean obviously at some point something catastrophic is going to happen and I broke my hand. Not to blame the refs or say it’s their fault, it’s just one of the unfortunate situations and I just think more precautions should be taken when I’m inside the pocket.
“I mean if you look at all the replays, I’m on the ground every time. I’m on the ground constantly, all the time. Every time I throw the ball, and all my highlights, just watching film in general, every time I throw the ball I’m on the ground. I don’t know why, but I don’t get the 15-yard flags like everyone else does. It’s unfortunate for myself and my team. I’ll be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated right now because of that. I’m not trying to blame the refs, I’m just want them to take notice, that’s it.”
After being asked if he wasn’t getting the calls other NFL quarterbacks get, Vick replied bluntly, “absolutely.” Vick said he was unsure whether or not he’ll be able to play next week. “I felt like I got hit late. I don’t know anything right now except my hand is broken and we have to figure out what is the next move. ”
There was no denying Vick was once again pounded, scrambling for his life at times. Vick went to the locker room for x-rays late in the third quarter after guiding the Eagles to a 16-14 lead, and he could be seen wincing on the bench as he tried to clench his right hand into a fist.
It was Cruz, however, that proved to be a lethal fist in the Eagles’ face. That, and poor tackling.
With 8:07 left to play, Cruz came down a 28-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning at the goal line between Eagles’ defenders Jarrad Page and Nnamdi Asomugha, which gave the Giants a 22-14 lead. Cruz, a two-year pro out of Massachusetts had just two receptions entering the game, finished with three receptions for 110 yards.
“This means a lot to me,” Cruz said. “You sit patiently and wait for your opportunity and I waited for my turn. I was someone who went undrafted, I wasn’t recruited by a Division I school out of high school, and I thought I was good enough to play Division I. Now I’m playing against the best in the NFL. It motivates me. It drives me every second, every hour, every week. Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. It motivates me.”
Ahmad Bradshaw’s 18-yard touchdown reception finished the Eagles for good, with 3:32 left to play. The score was the result of a Mike Kafka interception. Kafka threw two interceptions replacing Vick.
The Eagles responded well to an early 14-0 hole with 16 unanswered points—the result of three Alex Henery field goals and LeSean McCoy’s 11-yard, second-quarter TD run.
The Eagles went into halftime trailing, 14-13, and looked very comical in doing so. The first two quarters featured Eagles running into each other, defensive backs being thrown around like rag dolls and rookies being further exposed as not-yet-ready for prime-time. It also came with a bunch of gabbing, pushing and shoving, and finger-pointing between the two teams.
On stage first was Eagles’ rookie Casey Matthews. He was replaced by Jamar Chaney at middle linebacker last week, and against the Giants was moved to outside linebacker, where it seems he can’t play, either.
In the first quarter, on a second-and-five from the Eagles’ 40, Matthews bit hard on a play fake by Eli Manning. Matthews’ commit allowed Brandon Jacobs to swing out of the backfield unchecked down the sideline, wide open for a 40-yard touchdown toss. Jacobs was at least 10 yards away from Matthews, whose mad dash in trying to recover made it even more laughable.
What wasn’t funny was the play gave New York a 7-0 lead.
On the Giants’ next possession, more hilarity ensued when Manning connected with Cruz for a 74-yard touchdown. Eagles’ free safety Kurt Coleman added drama to Cruz’s route to the end zone. After originally whiffing at the Giants’ wide receiver once, he then came back and collided with the converging Asomugha—and they both fell, leaving Cruz unimpeded to the end zone with his third-career catch and first NFL touchdown.
But the Eagles scratched away, leaning heavily on the shifty legs of McCoy, who had 88 yards rushing in the first half, including a nifty 11-yard scoring run that drew Philadelphia to within 14-10 with 1:54 left in the first half.
The Eagles benefited from a horrid Steve Weatherford 27-yard punt that gave Philadelphia key field position at the Giants’ 46. Vick made the mistake a costly one, when he hit Maclin for a 24-yard strike to the Giants’ 22. The Eagles settled for Henery’s second field goal of the half, a 38-yarder that cut the Giants’ lead down to 14-13.
In addition to the shoddy tackling and Keystone Cops defense, another glaring issue facing the Eagles is their inability to close. The Eagles have now been outscored by a combined 29-0 in the fourth quarter over the previous two games.
It’s obviously something that’s piqued Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid. Asomugha confirmed afterward that Reid was livid with his team, and made sure they knew it after losing to the Giants. “It’s tough, because we know we know where we want to be in the beginning of the season.”
Not 1-2 and getting beaten by an undersized, undrafted receiver that for a day the Eagles somehow managed to make into Jerry Rice.
Bird Seeds: RB LeSean McCoy rushed a career-high 24 times for 128 yards and a touchdown, marking his fifth-career 100-yard game (second in 2011) … McCoy has scored at least one rushing touchdown in all three games this season for the first time in his career … With five total touchdowns, he is more than halfway to his 2010 total of nine … In five career games against the Giants, McCoy has rushed for 413 yards and three touchdowns on 69 carries (6.0 average) … DT Cullen Jenkins, DE Trent Cole and DE Jason Babin have all registered at least one sack in each of the first three games this season, becoming the first Eagles trio ever to do so … The last Eagles DT with a sack in three-straight games was Darwin Walker in 2002, and the only other DT in team history to have a sack in each of the first three games of the season was Jerome Brown in 1991 … Cole has had a three-game sack streak in all seven of his NFL seasons … The last time the Eagles had 40 carries in a game was on 12/7/08 at NYG … The Eagles offense has amassed 25 or more first downs in all three games this season, marking just the third time since 1950 they have done so in three straight games (9/18/05 to 10/2/05; 12/20/81 to 9/19/82) … The Eagles converted 7 of 15 third-down opportunities and are now 20 of 39 (51.3%) on the season.
Reported by Joseph Santoliquito