EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Anyone looking for the big play this weekend, the coast-to-coast catch and run, should turn on the NFC wild-card game with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants.
There’s bound to be a few of them at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Start with the Falcons (10-6) and Matt Ryan. While halfback Michael Turner and receiver Roddy White move the chains, Ryan has developed a big-play chemistry with rookie receiver Julio Jones. The two have combined on eight touchdowns. The shortest has been 17 yards and there are four over 48 yards.
The big combo for the Giants (9-7) is Eli Manning and rising second-year star Victor Cruz. The two have combined on five touchdowns of 68 yards or more, including a league record-tying 99-yarder against the Jets two weeks ago.
The big-play nature of the two offenses isn’t surprising in an NFL that has been dominated this season by the quarterbacks and the offenses. A record 11,356 points were scored, with games averaging 44.4 points, the highest average in 46 seasons (46.1 in 1965).
“A lot of times, you do what you have to do,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “You make the adjustments and so-on and so-forth. I think we’ve had four or five games in a row where we’ve had pretty good balance and that’s the way we like to play. In circumstances where it wasn’t so obvious that we could run, we’d do whatever we had to do. The quarterback naturally has responded very well to that.”
While Ryan and Manning have both had career seasons, the big-play nature of their play this season has been unexpected.
Much of the credit for that goes to Jones and Cruz.
Atlanta moved up to No. 6 in the NFL Draft this spring to grab Jones, a burner from Alabama. They haven’t regretted it. His 54 catches for 959 yards and eight TDs led all NFL rookies.
Jones helps compliment White, who had an NFC-high 100 catches, and Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Manning threw for 4,933 yards, with Cruz catching 82 passes for a team-record 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. The Giants set a team record, averaging 295.5 yards passing and they led the NFL with 18 completions of 40 or more yards this season.