When Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie came up with the interception in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, he (against better judgment) declined to take a knee and instead looped to his left and up the sidelines before being forced out at the nine-yard line. The Pro-Bowl corner then made his way through the sea of leaping green and settled in near midfield.
All the while, Juan Castillo was tracking him. The defensive coordinator tried to catch him when he first came off the field but was not quick enough to the scene. So he ran and dodged his way through the sideline traffic until he found his man. Once he did, Castillo wrapped Rodgers-Cromartie in a hug.
“One thing I can tell you, Juan loves this defense, man. He’s got passion for this game,” said Rodgers-Cromartie. “Anytime someone makes a play, he’ll be overexcited. He’s going to find that person and just go all out with them.”
What made Castillo particularly amped is what happened on the play before that. With the Giants facing a 4th-and-1 at the Eagles 40-yard line, Eli Manning — his team down three — lined up in the shotgun and found a wide-open Victor Cruz over the middle for a 30-yard pick-up, setting up a first-and-g0al. Cruz was Rodgers-Cromartie’s responsibility on that play, and he got beat. Badly.
“Oh, he gave me that Ooh-Op-Ooh,” said Rodgers-Cromartie, as if that term is universally understood. To a degree his audience knew exactly what he meant. But just to clarify: the Ooh-Op-Ooh?
“I go one way, he goes the other,” he said. “He beat me from the line. I was trying to be over-aggressive, missed him, it was curtains from there.
“Was I mad that he caught it? Yes sir. That was 4th-and-1. I gave up a fourth down and I was pretty heated. But I just stayed out there and fought.”
On the very next play, he came up with the pick. And Castillo went crazy.
“Everybody makes a mistake. The thing is, dont’ worry about it, and make a play,” said Castillo. “That was awesome because DRC was so upset because he lined up outside leverage instead of inside leverage and he knew exactly what he did when [Cruz] cut. What was awesome was, instead of losing his head — he was so pissed at himself — but instead of losing his head he went and made a play.”
There is greater meaning in this sequence because of the shift it represents. Last season this defense squandered five fourth-quarter leads. This year, they have already successfully defended three. They are showing more resolve, even when they get hit with the ol’ Ooh-Op-Ooh.
“I think the time we spent with each other in the offseason and going through that last year, we know how to overcome it,” said Rodgers-Cromartie. “We’ve gotten in that situation many times last year and we know how it feels. Our main thing this year is playing four quarters of football, and putting it all together.”