Super Bowl week is upon us, and for the 58th edition, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will do battle With the Chiefs continue their run of dominance to officially be declared a dynasty? Or will the 49ers win their first Lombardi Trophy since the 1994 season?
As fans know, the regular season is a four-month battle just to get into the playoffs. Then, it's like a whole other season begins in the form of the playoffs. From there, qualified teams are looking to defeat two to three opponents to reach the Super Bowl in hopes of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. It's a tough stretch for those NFL players who are among the final two teams left standing before the big game.
While speaking with FanSided's Sterling Holmes and Special Olympics athlete Malcom Harris-Gowdie on Super Bowl 58 radio row in Las Vegas, former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz discussed the difference between the regular season, the playoffs, and the Super Bowl. Cruz calls, from his experience, the 2011 NFC Championship Game the toughest game he's played physically, while Super Bowl 46 was the toughest game mentally for the wide receiver.
Victor Cruz interview starts at the 3:03:00 mark in the YouTube video below.
"I always say the regular season is the regular season, it has its battles and has its ups and downs," said Cruz. "The playoffs and the NFC Championship Game that I played in was the toughest game that I played in physically. And I say the Super Bowl is the toughest game I played in mentally because there's so there's two weeks to prepare, you're trying to stay locked in and focused throughout those two weeks, you're trying to make sure that those outside things don't interfere with your mentality and how locked in you are. And then you get to game day and you're like 'Okay it's time to just do this' and like time to lock in and understand exactly what I need to do to perform. So mentally, the Super Bowl is a whole other animal."
Victor Cruz: Super Bowl was 'toughest game I played in mentally'
Cruz was a shining star on the Giants when he received his first full season with the team in 2011. Cruz skyrocketed up the depth chart, and his play helped the Giants win the NFC East and sneak into the playoffs. If there is anything the last two Giants Super Bowl teams have taught us anything, it's that the best team in the regular season doesn't always win it all. Sometimes, it's the team that catches fire at the right time.
The Giants defeated the 24-2 in the Wild Card Round and beat the 15-1 Green Bay Packers 37-20 in the Divisional Round. From there, they advanced to the NFC Championship Game to take on the 49ers, who were led by head coach Jim Harbaugh.
This game was a demanding one for the Giants, as they watched the 49ers put up 328 yards of offense on just 57 plays in just over 28 minutes with possession of the football. But the Giants did hold them to just one successful third-down conversion on 13 attempts. The Giants, meanwhile, had possession for nearly 40 minutes and put up 352 yards on 90 plays. Cruz was New York's leading receiver, recording 10 receptions for 142 yards on 17 targets.
The Giants would win the game 20-17 in overtime after recovering a muffed punt by 49ers return man Kyle Williams, setting up Lawrence Tynes' 31-yard, game-winning field goal. With that, the Giants were in Super Bowl 46, facing off against a familiar foe in the New England Patriots.
After the two-week wait, as Cruz references, the wide receiver scored on New York's second drive with a two-yard touchdown reception to put the team up 9-0. The lead wouldn't last long, as the Patriots scored 17 unanswered points, seemingly putting them on track to get revenge for their Super Bowl 42 loss to the Giants. The thing is, Eli Manning was clutch in the fourth quarter during that season, as evidenced by his incredible sideline throw to Mario Manningham, setting up a game-winning, six-yard touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants picked up the 21-17 victory and won what would be their last Super Bowl title.
Cruz caught all four of his targets in Super Bowl 46 for 25 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
As Cruz says, the Super Bowl is a "whole other animal." Will the Chiefs show that their regular season struggles were an anomaly and continue to silence their detractors? Or will the No. 1 seeded 49ers get their revenge after losing Super Bowl 54 four years ago? We'll find out on Sunday night.
Victor Cruz spoke with FanSided on Super Bowl 58 radio row in partnership with Captain Morgan.