EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Nothing has come easy for Victor Cruz this season, so the New York Giants' receiver isn't worried about a little hand-to-hand activity against Seattle's top-ranked pass defense.
The Seahawks' secondary might be the NFL's most aggressive with cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas leading the way.
From the moment the game starts Sunday, the Seahawks' DBs are going to get in the faces of the Giants' receivers. They are going to grab. They are going to hold. They are going to be physical, and they do it so well, the officials rarely throw flags at them.
It's going to be a fight, and Cruz is ready. Despite being double-teamed almost all season, he is just 27 yards away from reaching 1,000 yards receiving for the third straight year.
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride believes this might be Cruz's best season. It's also coming after he signed a five-year, $43 million contract in July.
"There's no question that we haven't been as effective in some of the other spots and, therefore, people gear up defensively," Gilbride said Thursday. "They're certainly very cognizant of where he is at all times. Sometimes we call it funnel coverage, where everybody is man-to-man and then there is a zone player in there. Usually that zone player is looking to see where Victor is and then we've gotten a lot more doubles."
Gilbride said it reminds him of the attention that Steve Smith and Plaxico Burress got in their primes.
With three games left in the season, Cruz has 71 catches for 973 yards, a 15.1-yard average, and four touchdowns. The reception total is 15 fewer than his career best of 86 last season. The TD total is six short of his career-high of 10 last year, while the yardage is well short of his team-record 1,536 in 2011, when he had a breakout season.
Knowing the attention he has drawn this season, Cruz is happy with the numbers. The season is another story, especially since the Giants (5-8) were eliminated from playoff contention last week. It marked the fourth time in five years New York won't be a part of the postseason.