Victor Cruz returned to form with an outstanding showing that helped lift the New York Giants to a desperate come-from-behind victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 41-34. The performance was vital for a major contributor to the Giants’ Super Bowl run last season after an embarrassing season opener where Cruz dropped three key passes.

Cruz had 11 catches for 179 yards and an 80-yard touchdown reception, which helped the Giants tie the game at 27 with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. When Cruz reached the end zone, he broke out into his trademark salsa dance, but the moment meant a bit more in this game than it has in the past—Cruz’s maternal grandmother, the inspiration for his touchdown celebration, passed on Monday.

Victor Cruz said he felt like it got quiet in the stadium and that he was dancing with his grandmother on the TD.

— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) September 16, 2012

Cruz combined for 378 yards with fellow star receiver Hakeem Nicks, signaling a return to prominence for one of the NFL’s most unstoppable receiving duos. Neither had a drop, featuring as dependable go-to options for Eli Manning, who had a handful of other players drop passes once again this week.

The bounce-back performance is a sigh of relief for many Giants fans who found themselves panicked by his unacceptable performance in their Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. His off season activities were a popular target by the disgruntled (myself included) with fear that Cruz entered the season unprepared and unfocused.

But Cruz provided a spark the Giants desperately needed while Manning and the defense struggled to overcome the young, feisty Buccaneers. And when the Giants needed a big play, Cruz delivered—as he did over and over again last season. In the process, he silenced his critics and reassured his nervous supporters.

Cruz is a dangerous threat to take it to the house on every down. He made that statement with a franchise-record 99-yard touchdown reception against the New York Jets last season, and reminded us once again in the Giants’ huge Sunday victory. The Giants may display worrisome question marks across the board, but as long as Cruz, Nicks and Manning are big factors for the offense, the defending Super Bowl champions promise to have to some magical games this season.

– written by Lou Musto – Featured Columnist