Orlando Scandrick shuts down Giants' Cruz

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After having breakfast Sunday morning, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick figured he'd relax and watch a little TV.

Minutes after turning on ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," Scandrick was sitting up in his hotel bed, as mad as could be.

"They said we don’t have a chance, that we don’t have a player who can stop Victor Cruz," Scandrick said, still fuming after the Cowboys' 24-21 victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. "And I say Victor Cruz caught one pass for 5 yards and he fumbled, and we returned it for a touchdown."

Cruz actually caught two passes for 27 yards, but his 22-yard reception in the fourth quarter was one of the few times all day that the Giants' Pro Bowl receiver wasn't Scandrick's responsibility.

This might have been the best performance of Scandrick's six-year career. He not only shut down a longtime nemesis, but Scandrick's strip of Cruz in the first quarter was a game-changing play. Safety Jeff Heath returned the fumble 50 yards for the game's first score.

"Orlando did an awesome job," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "Some people double Cruz a lot. We really didn’t double him. Sometimes on certain routes, he might have some help, but most of the time [Scandrick] had him himself."

That's a challenge that Scandrick not only embraced, but begged the coaches to give him.

"I want to take 80 everywhere he goes," Scandrick told his coaches.

Make no mistake, there was plenty of historical evidence to point to for those making the case that that assignment would be a mismatch in the Giants' favor.

One of the worst games of Scandrick's career occurred here in the win-or-go-home 2011 regular-season finale. Cruz had six catches for 178 yards and a touchdown in that game, including a leaping catch over Scandrick on a deep ball that essentially sealed Dallas' fate.

Cruz also had five catches for 118 yards and three scores in the Giants' Week 1 loss this season, although Scandrick wasn't covering him on his 70-yard score.

"I’m just a better player than I was when I used to go against Steve Smith and when I went against Victor Cruz earlier," said Scandrick, who used to be tormented by ex-Giant Smith out of the slot. "I feel like I’ve always had all the tools, and once I got my confidence and I got my technique and I found myself and I matured as a player, I’m tough to beat. ...

"The guy’s good. I respect him. He’s a Pro Bowler. Hopefully I can be in the Pro Bowl one day. I feel like I proved once again that I’m a good player. I’m getting better and I’m not going to stop working. I’m going to continue to improve."

Scandrick, who is a full-time player instead of just the nickel corner for the first time in his career, has improved enough for Kiffin to say he has a Pro Bowl case this season.

And Scandrick has improved enough to prove the experts who expected Cruz to dominate Dallas again wrong.

As Scandrick said, "The stats say everything."