February 4, 2012

Belichick's best performance? This year might be it

By DAN POMPEI / Chicago Tribune

(Continued from page 1)

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks with strong safety James Ihedigbo (44) during practice on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, in Indianapolis. The Patriots will face the New York Giants in NFL football Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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But in their last five games, the Giants are plus-74. Don't get too excited, though. During the same period, the Patriots are plus-97.

Front office chess

When you see Giants receiver Victor Cruz racing through secondaries, and when you look at his numbers (82 catches for 1,536 yards), it's hard to believe he was an undrafted rookie a season ago.

Even Giants general manager Jerry Reese, in his wildest dreams, could not have foreseen Cruz becoming a salsa-dancing sensation in his second year.

Reese said the Giants didn't even have Cruz ranked as a priority free agent. In fact, all three Giants scouts who evaluated Cruz before the draft ranked him the same way _ as a good "local" free agent.

That means the Giants were only interested in Cruz, who is from New Jersey, because he wasn't going to cost them much.

At 6 feet, 205 pounds, Cruz has average size. With a 40-yard dash in the high 4.5s, he has average speed. He played against a lower level of competition at Massachusetts. He wasn't a return specialist. There were plenty of receivers available.

And so no other team even made an offer on Cruz.

"In scouting, it's not a perfect science," Reese said. "I don't even know if it is a science at all. It's not a crapshoot. But every now and then, you get lucky with guys like that."

There was something about Cruz that was difficult to identify.

"He's a fighter," Giants receivers coach Sean Ryan said. "He wants that ball. ... It's an underlying theme in every facet of his success. ... He has a great desire to go get it."


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