Best way to beat the Giants: Drive Odell Beckham Jr. nuts early and often

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The league’s scouting book on Odell Beckham Jr. is now a bestseller.

The New York Giants wide receiver is prone to losing his mind in the heat of the action, and it doesn’t have to be Josh Norman covering him to bring it out. The key for opponents is to do whatever they can to incite that inner rage. That’s what the Minnesota Vikings tried to do — and very much succeeded at — in Monday’s 24-10 win to bring them to 4-0.

Get up in Beckham’s face. Double cover him. Give him a little shove after the whistle. Say something in his ear. Put an extra kicking net on the sideline. Whatever it takes.

Xavier Rhodes, left, and the Minnesota Vikings frustrated Odell Beckham Jr, No. 13, often on Monday (AP).
Xavier Rhodes (R) and the Minnesota Vikings frustrated Odell Beckham Jr. often on Monday (AP).

Beckham is a rare talent, but his emotional outbursts are hurting his team, which now finds itself at 2-2 and in last place in the NFC East. He finished the game with three catches for 23 yards — the worst yardage total of his career. Beckham also entered the game with a streak of 28 straight games with at least four catches, and that streak is now over.

The Vikings bottled up Beckham early, getting physical with him and holding Beckham without a catch for the first 22 minutes of the game, and that had to drive him batty. He caught three passes in a 90-second span for those 23 yards, but he cost his team 15 of those yards with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“You just can’t afford to have penalties, especially ones that are preventable,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said.

Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes gave Beckham a little extra sauce after the second of those catches, and Beckham retaliated. Was it a weak call? To the normal player — maybe. But just as Beckham was a target of the Vikings, he also is so to the referees who are watching him like a hawk on a weekly basis. He is that guy now.

Worse yet: Beckham seems to be in denial about what teams are trying to do to him, or that it has an effect.

“That doesn’t work with me,” Beckham said. “Nobody on another team bothers [or] upsets me.”

The NFL altered the rulebook in the offseason, and now two unsportsmanlike calls in a game gets you kicked out. It could be anything that sets him off and costs his team dearly. Plus, once you’ve gotten your first one, you’re thinking about not getting a second one — and not fully concentrating on the game at hand.

Couldn’t that be what happened on the opening sequence of the second half? Beckham dropped the first pass of the third quarter, a catch he makes 99 times out of 100. Then on third-and-7, Beckham ran an insanely bad route and Manning’s pass was caught like a punt by Rhodes.

Everything fell apart on that drive, but we can trace it back to earlier. The final six passes thrown in Beckham’s direction either were incomplete or intercepted.

Later in the third, Beckham had a step on Vikings corner Terence Newman but couldn’t haul in what looked like a well-thrown ball from Manning. It would have been a tough catch, but Beckham used to be known as the guy who can make the impossible look routine. Now he’s known for something else entirely.

(The best Beckham-esque catch of the night probably went to the ballboy.)

The league is cracking down on the extracurricular stuff. Prior to Monday’s game, there had been 20 unsportsmanlike penalties called, which is right about on pace with the 87 from the 2015 season. In 2013 and 2014, only 59 and 67 unsportsmanlike calls, respectively, were made.

Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said prior to the game Monday that he wanted Beckham to cool it, “control his emotions” and “be less of a distraction.” He saw his wide receiver go nuclear during the loss to the Washington Redskins, and every other Giants player seemed to go right in the loony bin along with him as they let the game slip away with many mental mistakes.

Monday’s loss was to a superior team but one that is limited offensively as the Vikings missed a field-goal try and couldn’t put the Giants away until late. This Giants don’t face a team that currently has a losing record until Week 11. After two impressive victories, they’ve dropped two straight where mental mistakes and a lack of composure were too big to ignore.

On the Giants’ best drive of the night, a 91-yarder that cut the lead to 17-10 early in the fourth, Beckham never saw a pass go his way. Paul Perkins, who had zero NFL touches entering the game, was the one with the 67-yard catch on that drive. Beckham was a highly visible decoy. That’s fine and all, but he has to be out there catching game-changing passes and a regular contributor to the offense. When the ball doesn’t go his way, it’s usually bad news in the grand scheme.

When Rhodes left the game with an injury with just over eight minutes left, there was a brief glimmer of hope. But the Giants didn’t look Beckham’s way much after that point, and he was officially shut down.

The book is out, and every other team on the Giants’ schedule is passing around copies and sipping their tea. They don’t even need to read it at this point.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!