One of the key matchups in Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will be Pro Bowl receiver Victor Cruz going against cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
They have played each other five times, with Cruz catching 25 passes on 46 targets for 451 yards and four touchdowns. Cruz has had a great game — six catches for 178 yards and a touchdown in a regular-season-ending 2011 game that decided the division title — and a not-so-good game — two catches for 23 yards in the second meeting last season.
“I think we know each other pretty well,” said Scandrick, who is having his best season and has emerged as the Cowboys’ best cornerback. “I think it’s been a great matchup. We go at it. He does some things great, and I do some things well that he has trouble with.”
Said Cruz: “Our battles have been pretty good, and there’s been ups and downs. He’s gotten the … Their team has gotten the better of me, the better of us. I think we’ve gone back and forth a couple of times. He’s a good player, man. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s pretty smart; when he reads something he attacks it pretty quickly.”
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Scandrick, who has been starting outside, likely will spend more time in the slot this week, facing Cruz.
Scandrick has allowed only 35 receptions on 60 targets for 315 yards and three touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Quarterbacks have a passer rating of only 75.3 against him.
No magic potion
Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is still smarting from the 49-17 blowout loss at New Orleans on Nov. 10 when his unit allowed a franchise-record 625 yards and an NFL-record 40 first downs.
“It definitely motivates you to play a good game, no doubt,” Kiffin told reporters after practice Wednesday “Bad games aren’t a lot of fun.”
Kiffin is hopeful the Cowboys will be better against the Giants because of the work the coaches put in during last week’s bye and the return of several injured players to the lineup.
“There’s no [such] thing as magic,” Kiffin said. “We’ve all just got to do a better job.”
Kiffin’s unit ranks last in the league against the pass and total yards allowed.
Defensive end DeMarcus Ware (quad) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) returned to practice Wednesday, joining a host of walking wounded who returned on Monday, including wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), safety J.J. Wilcox (knee) and defensive tackles Jason Hatcher (neck) and Nick Hayden (ribs).
All are expected to play Sunday at the Giants.
The only players who didn’t practice even on a limited basis were linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant. Both are expected to miss one if not two games with hamstring injuries.
Ware, Hatcher and Claiborne were limited in practice, as was linebacker DeVonte Holloman.
“It’s going to help us,” Kiffin told reporters about the injured players returning. “I like those jersey numbers, 94 and 97 [Ware and Hatcher]. They looked good but they’re still coming back.”