Blowing a 10-point lead with less than four minutes to play is usually inexcusable. But the Cardinals feel they may have an excuse. In fact, some are adding their own asterisks to the Giants’ comeback victory Sunday, because of what went down on the play prior to Hakeem Nicks’ go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes.
See, Victor Cruz made a catch, fell to the turf, got up and dropped the ball. He was never touched. The “fumble” was recovered by the Cardinals, but the officials didn’t see it as a fumble, claiming instead that Cruz had “given himself up.” A play in which a player “gives himself up” isn’t subject to review (because it’s clearly a judgment call) and thus Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t able to challenge.
Eli Manning hit Nicks for six points on the next play and the Giants shut down Arizona on its final drive, moving to 3-1 and remaining in a first-place tie in the NFC East.
Watching the play, it’s hard to imagine that Cruz was giving himself up. Instead, it looked as though he stumbled and then tried to get up, assuming he’d been touched. I understand why referee Jerome Boger couldn’t review the call, but I can’t comprehend the call itself. Neither can former NFL officiating czar Mike Pereira, who thought the play should have been ruled a fumble. He noted on the game broadcast that the officials were essentially protecting Cruz “from his own stupidity.”
The good news is that this was an anomaly. I’ve never seen the “gave himself up” interpretation applied in a controversial situation and affect the final result of a game before, and there’s a good chance it won’t come up again.
The bad news is that it did affect this game. Had it not been for that call, the Cardinals might have won. And that means the Giants might have lost. In December, that could affect playoff races and seeding.
And if you really want to trip out on the Butterfly effect, there’s likely some way in which this botched call will have bearing on the 2012 presidential election.