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GREEN BAY, Wis. – After the three drops (at least) and after the mere 28 receiving yards and after the 25-point loss, Odell Beckham Jr. first banged his head against a locker room door and then sat, lowered his head and wept, according to his New York Giants teammates.
Later, after a news conference, he reportedly punched a hole through the sheetrock of a Lambeau Field hallway.
These behaviors range from commonplace to borderline after a tough playoff defeat. There’s no need to call the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Department or anything, but a lot of teams lose here and the drywall manages to stay intact.
“Odell’s an emotional guy,” quarterback Eli Manning said after the Giants fell to Green Bay, 38-13, sending the white-hot Packers to Dallas for the NFL playoff divisional round next Sunday. “He was disappointed. I saw him, you know … there’s a lot of guys who shed a tear or two today.”
Beckham made a name for himself via brilliant, unthinkable catches, often requiring just a single hand. He can also be highly emotional – good, bad or bizarre. He once punched a kicking net in frustration only to later propose marriage to it.
Sunday he was done in when the football kept bouncing off his two usually reliable mitts at the worst possible times.
There was a drop on third down of the opening drive that would have both moved the chains and put the Giants in field-goal range. There was another drop in the end zone on the second drive. There were a lot of plays and points and momentum left behind and not just from No. 13.
All of this came seven days after Beckham and some of his teammates were photographed on a boat in Miami, where they had gone on their off day to unwind. (Among other activities, there was a party Justin Bieber was reportedly at). As such, the world was about to become unhinged.
Blame the Boat. Ship of Fools. No Hands on Deck.
Giants fans will try to find solace in a miserable second-half performance here by playing predict-the-New-York-tabloid-headlines.
The whole boat thing was silly but that doesn’t matter. As sure as perception can become reality, so too can ridiculous become reality. The boat, the boat, the boat.
— Justin Witmondt (@JustinWitmondt) January 2, 2017
Did a day of sun and fun cause Beckham to drop critical passes a week later? Or was it the single-digit temperatures or the pressure of a first career playoff game or his typical inconsistency that often glossed over the highlight-show stuff.
Does anyone sane really believe he would have made the catches if he stayed home and watched tape, Netflix or simply not been photographed?
“There’s no way you can connect something that happened seven days ago to today,” Beckham said. “That’s not realistic. The connection is not there, in my opinion. But everyone is going to have their own opinion.”
Yes, they did and do and will. Beckham understood this, and that’s when the whole story moves into some Matrix-like other world. The boat trip didn’t matter … but it did. Or, at least physically being on the boat didn’t matter … but the external reaction to physically being on the boat wound up mattering.
“No one knows why you don’t go out there and play your best,” Manning said.
“I think it did a great job creating distractions for us,” Beckham said. “It’s unfortunate. That’s just how the world is. It started before the game. It happened early and it did a great job of putting it in people’s mind, ‘OK, now if the Giants lose it’s because you went to Miami.’ ”
All anyone knows for sure is Beckham had a puzzlingly bad performance, and in a first half when Manning was on top of his game and the Giants should have jumped out to a healthy lead. Instead they managed a couple of meager field goals. The Packers, with no need to panic, finally got their feet under them and then raced by, winning a seventh consecutive game behind Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes.
It’s worth reminding – and reminding and reminding – that this wasn’t a close game, that the defensive backs who barely lifted an arm on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half weren’t on any boats in Florida, that Rodgers is on a 22-touchdown-zero-interception streak, that the unforced errors and dumb penalties went roster-wide and so on and so on and so on.
Just to recap: The score was 38-13.
That said, the early drops were brutal.
“Football is really a game of momentum,” Beckham acknowledged “We had a couple of chances, instead of having six points, having 14 points early on in the game. And you put the pressure on them. And we didn’t come out and didn’t make those plays … There were so many opportunities in the game to go the other way.”
And when you put a target on your back – even if it’s a dumb target – you either deliver or you deal with the repercussions. And when you play in New York, you can double that equation. The bad comes with the good.
Beckham understands this and it may help explain his reactions – both on the field and off. This was pressure, whether it was deserved or not. It’s a challenging spot to exist. Going to Miami supposedly signaled – to some fans – that he doesn’t care enough. Yet punching a wall supposedly signaled – to some fans – that he cares too much.
Was he supposed to be happy about losing? Or dropping passes? Or becoming a sideshow story? Certainly there is a happy medium here but everything kept spiraling and spiraling.
It’s how the media winds up staking out the back hallway of a football stadium like it was a major crime scene.
Beckham said he was completely focused in practice all week – and didn’t drop a pass or miss an assignment. His teammates back up that assertion, saying if anything, he was too wound up.
“The way that he prepared for the game emotionally might have been too much for him,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “It happens.”
It happened to Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday. All of it. The mistakes. The tears. The regret. The mauling of a wall.
It was one disastrous week in a young star’s career. He expected big things. Then it all went wrong.
The boat didn’t matter, until somehow it sort of did.