EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It's the stuff of fiction, the type of feat that's only supposed to be possible in comic books. Heck, the Madden video game designers would have dismissed it as too unrealistic.
Only DeAndre Hopkins did it in real life.
The Houston Texans' second-year receiver turned himself into Plastic Man, reaching back with one long arm to snag a badly thrown Ryan Fitzpatrick pass (often, there's no other kind) with one white gloved hand. It was an unbelievably athletic move. And an unfathomable adjustment on the fly. After all, Hopkins did all this while leaping into the air — a jump he'd later say he mistimed.
"God blessed me with size 3X(L) hands and I want to use them to the best of my ability," Hopkins says.
This is a catch that could actually even make Detroit Lions trendsetter Calvin Johnson envy another receiver.
His blessing sent oohs and aahs running through the hostile Met Life Stadium in the middle of a 30-17 New York Giants win. It doesn't matter what team you are rooting for in the NFL. You can't help but react in awe to a catch like this. This is a catch that could actually even make Detroit Lions trendsetter Calvin Johnson envy another receiver.
Even when it doesn't count. That's right, though Hopkins' amazing catch is sure to be played over and over again on highlight shows, it will never show up on any official ledger. For Hopkins' reach back snare — and 53-yard gain — got wiped out by an illegal formation penalty. Which is like painting over the Mona Lisa because you don't like the smile.
"It's more frustrating that we lost," Hopkins tells me when asked in the locker room afterwards about his wiped-out bit of magic. "That's the real frustrating part."
Hopkins finishes with 116 yards on six carries, including a 49-yard grab late in the game that did count. But it's the one gone that lingers. And haunts.
You don't have to be a Texans fan to see that. Longtime Giants play-by-play man Bob Papa couldn't stop talking about the Hopkins catch. "I don't care that it doesn't count!" Papa said on air at one point in mid praise.
Of course, Houston coach Bill O'Brien does care. This is how bad things got for the Texans on their trip to New Jersey: DeAndre Hopkins pulled off the catch of the decade — and they got nothing out of it.
Except an unforgettable image. And some big regrets.
The catch does continue to show just how dangerous a weapon Hopkins is becoming, just how quickly he's developing as a second-year player under O'Brien. Even on a day when Fitzpatrick looks like the Fitzpatrick that the fan bases of his four previous NFL teams grew to loath for much of the afternoon, Hopkins' brilliance is impossible to ignore.
As long as you don't look at the final stats.