Packers bring out best in Giants' Hakeem Nicks
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It was fitting for Hakeem Nicks to have one of those eye-catching games Sunday night against the Packers. He had one last January in Green Bay, helping the Giants upset the Packers on their way to winning a Super Bowl.
He also faced the Packers in two regular-season games, each of the previous two seasons, and Nicks caught three touchdown passes in the two games.
Clearly, he likes facing Green Bay. And after a much-needed bye week to get him closer to full health than he's been since before training camp, Nicks produced another superb game against the Packers Sunday night in the Giants' 38-10 win, making five catches for 77 yards and his first TD since Week 2.
That score, a 13-yard strike from Eli Manning late in the third quarter -- Tom Coughlin challenged the original call that Nicks was down short of the goal line, and the call was overturned after review -- merely put a tighter hold on a game the Giants controlled from their opening drive. But it still was an important night for Nicks, who hadn't had a signature performance since that Week 2 game against the Bucs in which he caught 10 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.
Before that, on a bigger stage, there was Nicks' brilliant NFC divisional playoff game in Green Bay, when he caught seven balls for 165 yards and two TDs.
But there had been very little of note since. Blame the broken foot he suffered in the spring that slowed him through training camp, then the knee injury suffered in that Bucs game that kept him out of the next three games. He hadn't had a touchdown catch since.
"Early in the season, I was kind of hindered a little bit because I couldn't really catch and burst right away due to the knee and the foot," Nicks said this past week. "Or just not trusting it to make a solid plant on it at full speed or stuff like that."
There was some evidence of the old Nicks in the ugly 31-13 loss to the Bengals two weeks ago, when he caught nine passes for 75 yards. But it's been no coincidence that Manning's slide occurred as Nicks struggled to regain his form, particularly in the yards-after-catch category.
Nicks remedied that and more Sunday night, displaying the wide variety of connections with Manning that led to a pair of 1,000-yard seasons and 18 total touchdowns in 2010 and 2011. Manning hit Nicks with a 9-yard, back-shoulder throw on the second Giants play of the game, a drive that ended with a touchdown. A 25-yarder along the sideline in the second quarter again led to a score.
Then there was a 30-yarder in the third quarter, the bulk of which came after contact from beleaguered cornerback Davon House, playing in place of starter Sam Shields. That came on the drive that ended with Nicks' first touchdown catch since Sept. 16.
Perhaps the biggest boost Nicks got from the bye week was mental rather than physically. "Your body gets a chance to rest but, most of all, you regroup in your mind," he said. "I think you need that sometimes, just to get away in your mind and to come back and elevate your game a little bit."