Sunday's prime-time game between the New York Giants (2-1) and Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) at Lincoln Financial Field will pit star wide receiver Victor Cruz against four-time All Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who got the short end of their head-to-head matchups in 2011.
Last season, Cruz totaled 238 receiving yards and three touchdowns on nine catches against Asomugha and the Eagles. This weekend, the Giants receiver will be returning to the site of his regular-season breakout performance in Week 3 last year, when he caught three passes for 110 yards and two TDs--including a leaping, 28-yard score in the fourth quarter between Asomugha and another Eagles defender--in a 29-16 win.
Cruz had another fourth-quarter TD reception while defended by Asomugha in a 17-10, Week 11 loss at MetLife Stadium, scoring from 24 yards out. Following Big Blue's loss to Philadelphia that night (Nov. 20, 2011), Yahoo! Contributor Network asked Cruz about his success vs. Asomugha, who's considered the NFL's second-best corner behind New York Jets DB Darrelle Revis.
"I don't know, man," he said. "I think it's just the schemes we have as an offense, and just the way we can be able to do different things to catch them in certain coverages and take advantage of it."
Cruz didn't mention Kevin Gilbride's name at that particular moment, but he was deservedly heaping praise on the Giants offensive coordinator. Since losing to the Dallas Cowboys 24-17 at home to open the 2012-13 season, Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Co. have been on a tear, scoring 77 points combined in consecutive wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers.
Cruz, after dropping three passes against Dallas in Week 1, torched Tampa Bay for 179 yards and one TD on 11 receptions and chipped in with six catches for 42 yards in Carolina last Thursday.
The 25-year-old acknowledges how important his previous visit to Philadelphia was to his career, that it marked his first big-time performance in a game that counted. He'd go on to have many more dominant games last season, finishing with nine TD catches and a franchise-record 1,536 receiving yards before helping the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI.
Undrafted in 2010, Cruz now wants to prove that he can be a perennial top-tier producer.
"I did a personal best [in Philadelphia], and to come out like that was definitely great," Cruz told the New York Post this week. "But it's a new year and I just want to remain constant."