Hakeem Nicks eventually faded into obscurity, but his 2011 run with the New York Giants was nothing short of remarkable.
Super Bowl Sunday is finally here. The San Francisco 49ers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54 in what could be one of the tightest matchups in recent history.
The New York Giants didn’t come close to sniffing the Super Bowl this season. On the contrary, the 4-12 Giants fired head coach Pat Shurmur and brought in Joe Judge to set the franchise on the right path forward.
It’s been eight long years since the Giants have been in the Super Bowl. With the retirement of Eli Manning and Zak DeOssie’s status as an unrestricted free agent, in all likelihood, none of the members from the Super Bowl 46 team will be on the team in 2020.
The 2011 Giants are one of the most beloved teams in franchise history. Once a 7-7 squad, the Giants went on a remarkable run, winning six games in a row. That journey culminated in a 21-17 victory over the vaunted New England Patriots.
One player who had the best season of his career that year—Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks set career highs in receiving yards with 1,192 while hauling in 76 receptions and seven touchdowns over 15 games that season. Nicks’ production in the regular was overshadowed by Victor Cruz, who set the franchise record for most receiving yards in a season with 1,536. But in the postseason, Nicks shone brightest of any receiver.
In the Giants four postseason games, Nicks had 28 receptions for 444 yards and four touchdowns, totaling more than 100 yards in three of those four games.
Against the Atlanta Falcons on wild-card weekend, he helped spark an offense that had been stagnant in the first quarter. With the Giants trailing 0-2 he caught a four-yard slant for a touchdown to put the Giants ahead and pumped up the MetLife Stadium crowd.
In the third quarter with the Giants up 10-2, Nicks made the biggest play of the game, catching a short crossing route for a 72-yard touchdown. He was able to somehow elude several Falcons defenders in the middle of the field on his way to the end zone. He finished the game with six receptions for 115 yards and the two touchdowns in the 22-point rout of Atlanta.
In the divisional round against the 15-1 Green Bay Packers, Nicks had an even a bigger game, catching seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
His first touchdown came early. With the game tied at 3-3, he caught a deep crossing route and bounced off safety Charlie Peprah and raced to the end zone for a 66-yard touchdown. His second score came on the final play of the first half with the Giants up 13-10. The 37-yard Hail Mary was a crushing blow to the Packers.
After seeing what Nicks had done in the Giants’ first two postseason games, the San Francisco 49ers made it a priority to contain Nicks in the NFC Championship game. He was held to five receptions for 55 yards. With the 49ers focusing on Nicks, this allowed Cruz to have a monster game (10 receptions for 142 yards). New York squeaked by San Francisco in overtime.
In Super Bowl 46, despite Bill Belichick building a gameplan around containing the receiving corps, Nicks tallied a game-high 10 receptions for 109 yards. If not for the play of Nicks in the postseason, the Giants may not have won their fourth Super Bowl. In fact, they might not have even made it that far in the first place without his heroics.
After his spectacular postseason run, it seemed Nicks was poised to become a star. Unfortunately, he fractured his right foot in the offseason, an injury that required surgery. Those injury woes plagued him during the 2012 season.
In his final full season with the Giants in 2013, he notched 56 receptions for 896 yards, but failed to reach the end zone. The Giants brought him back in the middle of the 2015 season, but he was a shell of his former self.
It’s a shame that Nicks’s promising career was derailed by injuries. No one will forget the remarkable 2011 season when he spurred the Giants onto an improbable Super Bowl victory. Nicks and the rest of the 2011 Giants will forever hold down a special place in fans’ hearts for eternity.