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Giants WR's gearing for Patriots


Hakeem Nicks started and played in a career-high 15 games this season. The only hole came in Week Nine against the New England Patriots, and now the wide receiver will fill that blank stat line in Super Bowl XLVI.

Nursing a hamstring injury at the time, Nicks, who is now working through a shoulder injury, will play the Patriots for the first time in his three-year career.

To whose advantage that will be remains to be seen.

"It could be to ours, but it all depends on how I'm getting used on offense and how things are getting taken advantage of," said Nicks, later adding, "You never know. We've just got to see how they play me. We'll see."

What the Patriots have seen, however, is the rest of the corps.

In the 24-20 regular-season victory in Foxboro, Victor Cruz led the team in with six catches for 91 yards while Mario Manningham made his three receptions of the game count, catching a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Manningham has that knack for remaining quiet, and then when the defense might forget about him, he strikes up a big play. In eight catches this postseason, three were touchdowns. Manningham's first – and only – catch of the NFC Championship was the 17-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that put the Giants up by a field goal.

"Just be patient," he said. "When the time comes, be patient. We love making big plays. Sometimes we joke around and see who's going to make the first big play. That's how our receiving corps is. We don't wait for somebody to make a play, we're going to make it."

Nicks and Cruz were the most animated in celebrating Manningham's late score in San Francisco.

"I think that's all of us," Nicks said. "That's just the vibe and chemistry that we've got between each other. There's no bad blood between any of us. At any given time, we know that any one of us are capable of making plays. So we get excited for each other, we do."

Manningham, who was inactive as a rookie for the Giants' last postseason appearance in 2008, has scored in all three playoff games this time around.

"What impresses me about Mario is that [Nicks and Victor Cruz] always make big plays and Rio makes some play out of nowhere," tight end Jake Ballard said. "It's like, 'OK, you can get yours but I'm going to get mine eventually.' I like that type of attitude, and he stepped up for us a lot of times this year."

Ballard said he has feasted off the leftovers from the three receivers, but he took a whole lot more than that against the Patriots the first time. Without Nicks, Ballard had four catches for 67 yards and what proved to be the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left in the game.

"I'm just trying to get the table scraps out of those three," Ballard said. "But when all those guys are performing, it's hard to shut people down because it's 'Who are we going to double, who are we going to concentrate on? Because the other guy will come and bite us in the butt.'"

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