PHILADELPHIA — The absolute best and the absolute worst of Odell Beckham Jr. were on display in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss by the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
The dynamic wide receiver had two touchdown catches as the Giants’ offense suddenly sprang to life with 24 fourth-quarter points against the Philadelphia Eagles. One came on one of Beckham’s signature otherworldly grabs. Beckham punctuated his touchdowns with two notable celebrations, one of which demonstrated his still-present immaturity as he was penalized for crawling along the turf like a dog and lifting his leg.
“I don’t know,” Beckham said. “I was in the end zone. I scored a touchdown. I’m a dog. So I acted like a dog. I didn’t know if the rule book said you can’t hike your leg. He [the official] said I peed on somebody. So I was trying to find the imaginary ghost that I peed on. But I didn’t see him. But either way it goes, you play football. I wear red and white. I don’t wear black and white with stripes on it. I don’t make calls. I just play football.”
And, oh yeah, the Giants lost to the Eagles, 27-24, on a 61-yard field goal by Philadelphia’s rookie kicker, Jake Elliott, as time expired. The defeat dropped the Giants’ record to 0-3 and put the competitive portion of their season on the verge of extinction.
Yet the Giants’ day was, in so many ways, all about Beckham, as it so often is.
They entered the fourth quarter trailing, 14-0. They’d managed, to that juncture, 13 points in 11 quarters this season. They were headed for their ninth straight game, dating to last season, in which they would fail to reach 20 points.
Then Beckham caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Manning. Then he caught another touchdown pass from Manning, this one via a one-handed snag along the side of the end zone.
Then fellow wideout Sterling Shepard provided a 77-yard catch and run, and that quickly the Giants had a 21-14 lead. Their offense had become the Greatest Show on Turf, part II. The lead didn’t stand up. But the Giants at least demonstrated they can score.
“It’s not that frustrating,” Beckham said. “This was the first step of progress we had as far as team unity, playing together, playing all three phases. Necessarily we didn’t finish all three phases. But as hard as it is to take the positives, this was a step in the right direction.”
Beckham is one of the sport’s greatest stars. The Giants’ offense is nothing without him at full capacity, as their extreme inability to score when he was sidelined or slowed by an ankle injury in recent weeks demonstrated. But he’s yet to realize the responsibility that accompanies his talent. His first touchdown celebration likely was not done on the spur of the moment. At some point, he probably planned it out and decided that it was a good idea.
“We needed to make a play,” he said. “We were down, what, 14-0? Okay. We need to make a play. We need a spark. I don’t care if you kick it from the 5-yard line on our side. We need to make a play. … It didn’t end up being detrimental, which is the main thing.”
Giants Coach Ben McAdoo declined to reveal what he said to Beckham or what he thought about the celebration.
But McAdoo said: “We don’t want to be kicking off at the 20-yard line. That’s not smart football. That’s part of our problem right now. We’re not playing smart enough football.”
Beckham said he will take that into consideration in the future … somewhat.
“For sure,” Beckham said. “But when I get in that end zone, I’m gonna do what I do. I’m gonna try and spark this team. And the consequences are gonna be what they are. It’s like life. You have to deal with the consequences. And that’s something I can take. Our team, we were motivated from that. I don’t think it set us back any. I just don’t think we finished.”
After his second touchdown, Beckham raised his fist, a gesture that seemed to have great meaning on a day of protests by NFL players in reaction to the comments by President Trump.
“Did it look like it?” Beckham said.
Told that it did appear the gesture had significant meaning, Beckham said: “If it looked like it, then it might have been something.”
The Giants were a playoff team last season and expected even bigger things this season. Now their season is unraveling. Beckham vowed not to surrender.
“You still have 13 more games,” he said. “If you win 13, you’re 13-3. You should be in the playoffs. That’s the bottom line. History was really meant to be rewritten and broken in every single way. So, again, I’m not gonna sit here and panic. It’s a long season. You’re gonna keep playing. What are you supposed to stop playing Week 4? I know you wouldn’t quit at what you do. I’m not gonna quit at what I do.”
Whatever the Giants accomplish this season, especially on offense, probably will come through Beckham’s deeds. It would help if he would add some maturity to his tremendous talent. The penalty didn’t affect the Giants’ fate on Sunday. There’s no guarantee that won’t be the case next time.
“We’re all right,” fellow Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. “We’re in a tough spot right now. But offensively we’ve got to continue to do what we started to do today. And if we do that, we’ll be okay. We’ve got a lot of playmakers in this room. We’ve got a lot of guys with high character. We’ve got a lot of guys that are strong and tough — leaders. We’ll be fine. It’s a long season. We dug ourselves in a hole. It doesn’t feel good. But I’m proud to see my guys hold their heads up high and keep fighting to the very end.”
Said McAdoo: “We’re all irritable right now. And rightfully so. … Our first win keeps getting delayed. We’re not playing well enough to win as a football team. We’re irritable. We need to find a way to win a game. It’s not gonna get any easier.”