Nicks winning 1-on-1 battle
October, 3, 2011
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com
When he sees one defensive back defending him on a route -- instead of two -- he knows he's got a chance to do damage.
So when Nicks saw single coverage Sunday in Arizona, the results were predictable.
The Giants No. 1 wideout finished with ten catches and 162 yards. And he saved the best for last -- Nicks' 29-yard touchdown catch with 2:39 to play turned out to be the game-winner.
On Monday, he said the Cardinals' single-coverage was key to his success.
"The safety wasn't really rolling to my side like in the previous two games. It was a lot of one-on-one coverage and taking advantage of that," Nicks said.
In the Giants' previous two games (both wins), Nicks had a combined seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. With Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon out of the Philadelphia game in Week 3, Nicks saw plenty of double-coverage.
He was also playing hurt, coming off of a hyper-extended knee and bone bruise suffered in Week 2 against the Rams.
But he looked 100% healthy against the Cardinals.
And a healthy Nicks was exactly what Eli Manning needed.
"Hakeem made some great plays today," Manning told reporters on Sunday. "Tough hands, snagged the ball in the air. Overall had a great day all day."
Manning connected on 27 of 40 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns. One of his biggest, obviously, was the game-winner to Nicks.
On that play, Nicks burned rookie Patrick Peterson, catching the ball near the same spot Plaxico Burress caught his game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII against New England.
Manning explained that he had targeted Nicks' back shoulder again and again on Sunday . So when he saw Peterson on Nicks in single coverage, he went over the top.
"The corner stopped, expecting a back shoulder [throw]," Manning said. "Good job by Hakeem."
REPLACING STEVE SMITH: Coming into the season, many wondered how teams would cover Nicks with Steve Smith no longer a part of the receiving core. The Cardinals on Sunday had to single-cover Nicks at times because Victor Cruz did enough to warrant Arizona's attention. Cruz finished with six catches and 98 yards.
His big day, though, was overshadowed by a controversial play in the fourth quarter.
Manning threw 29 yards to Cruz late in the fourth quarter. Cruz stumbled to the ground, got up and left the ball on the ground on a play the Cardinals insisted was a fumble. The referee said the call could not be challenged because Cruz "gave himself up" on the play and therefore was down.
The rule book says a play is over when a runner "declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance."
On the next play, Manning hit Nicks for the game-winning touchdown.
Nicks said on Monday that he thought Cruz was touched. But he later saw on film that Cruz went down without contact.
"I am glad that they made the call and I am glad it was on our side," Nicks said.