The Giants made waves this week with Justin Tuck accusing the Steelers of getting away with murder, and wide receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks making subtle comments in regards to the alleged clutch-and-grab play of the Steelers' defensive backs.
Clearly, they had an agenda to get in the heads of both the Steelers and the officials.
To the Giants' credit, it worked with the officials. It wasn't long before cornerback Keenan Lewis was flagged for an alleged pass interference in which he did nothing more than any defensive back on any pass.
To their detriment, though, the Steelers didn't fall for their cowardly bait.
Because of that, the Giants pushed it even further.
Cruz couldn't fight through cornerback Ike Taylor in the end zone, and after Manning put the ball on Taylor's hands (which he dropped), safety Ryan Clark gave Cruz a hit to his ribs/abdomen area. Cruz went to the ground, his head not having made contact with either Clark or the ground.
He stayed on the ground, not moving his arms, and drew a flag for, as head official Bill Leavy said, a "blow to the head."
Nevermind CBS's later effort to provide damage control saying the flag was for a late hit. That's simply not true. The fact is he bought into the acting job Cruz put on, further enabling coward receivers like Cruz across the league turning the safety initiative created for their protection into a cheap advantage.
And according to Steelers safety Ryan Clark, the Giants even planned on embellishing.
"They knew they were wrong. The guy had a rib injury. Period," Clark said of the botched second-quarter call, which led to perhaps an equally questionable game-tying touchdown run by Andre Brown.
"They had meetings about me before the game," he added. "So anytime they see number 25 flash, and a hit be made, it's going to be an opportunity for me to get a flag."
Just recently, Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders was accused of faking an injury to give the Steelers a chance to stop the clock in the fourth quarter of a game they were winning with a timeout still to call. Sanders has to appear in front of the league office, apparently to discuss the situation.
What about Cruz? You can't prove a cramp, but there is plenty of visual evidence showing not only the hit was nowhere near his head, but his reaction, laying motionless on the ground, was clearly premeditated.
How do I know that? Steelers kick returner Chris Rainey suffered an actual rib injury, and he got up and jogged to the sideline before collapsing in pain. He did not return to the game.
It was a nice hit on him on the ground, too. Lying on his back apparently did not make him defenseless. Nor did Mike Wallace being on his knees before being struck in the head by Giants safety Antrel Rolle. They picked up the flag on that one.
Amazingly, Cruz was back in the game a play later, suggesting his head was never really injured. Imagine that.
It's certainly not front page news to suggest the hypocritical NFL makes one-off decisions when to punish, investigate and even suspend players. In this case, bowing to the pressure of a nationally televised office, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tries to send a message to the league by forcing Sanders to appear before his throne and supposedly explain that he had a cramp, and likely sit through a lecture about flopping during games.
Cruz faked a head injury, and drew a 15-yard penalty for something only the official didn't recognize for what it was.
A gutless action by a player who simply was getting beat by better opponents.
Speaking of gutless, Mr. Goodell, you're going to have to meet with a lot of players now. Assuming you want to be consistent with your policies.