EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Odell Beckham Jr. couldn’t even wait until halftime.
Instead, the New York Giants star chose to do what so many at MetLife Stadium wish they could have. He left.
The sight of Beckham fleeing the sideline with two seconds left on the clock in the second quarter — and his offense still on the field against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night — seemed to signal the fraying of his last nerve and his patience with this pathetic football team.
But hours later, after the Eagles’ 34-13 romp over their NFC East rival was complete, first-year Giants coach Pat Shurmur supplied an explanation for Beckham’s sudden in-game departure.
“He had an IV. He was just dehydrated again,” Shurmur said.
Asked point-blank if Beckham “couldn’t” have stayed on the field for the final play of the half, Shurmur simply replied, “He went back in the locker room. Some guy’s bodies dehydrate quicker than others. We’ve just got to keep looking for ways to make sure he stays hydrated.”
“I was cramping,” Beckham later said, “so I was trying to go get an IV because those halftime breaks are really like five, 10 minutes. So if I can use a couple extra seconds to go in there and come back out, that’s really all it was.”
And while Beckham’s body was craving fluid, the Giants’ offense appeared to be on life support for nearly four quarters.
With their season slipping away, the Giants stepped onto their home turf desperate to regain relevancy, to secure a foothold in a wide-open NFC East race and, more importantly, earn their second victory. But John Mara’s Giants — the team that ignored a deep and talented quarterback class, and opted to draft a once-in-a-generation, phenom-of-a-running-back in Saquon Barkley — now appear to be done.
Years of poor drafting, bloated contracts and an unwillingness to acknowledge organizational missteps have led them here: A 1-5 record with an aging quarterback in Eli Manning, who, despite being a two-time Super Bowl MVP, is playing well below expectations. A middling offense. And a head coach who continues to publicly downplay the severity of a team being this talented and consistently playing this terribly.
“We got beat by a good team and we didn’t play well enough. I don’t think we need to overthink that,” Shurmur said.
When Beckham wasn’t feverishly pacing or yelling at himself on the sideline, he was head-butting and punching a large fan near the bench — all in an effort to psych himself up for the task at hand.
“I was just trying to get myself going,” he said of bearing his emotion for all the world to see. “I felt like some of those plays right after I was getting myself going was some of my best plays. I was just trying to get myself fired up and I did that and it helped me.”
If there is a silver lining to be found here in this locker room, it is this: Barkley is an absolute stud, a bona fide game-changer, a do-it-all back who generates comparisons to past greats like Barry Sanders, Earl Campbell and Walter Payton. Barkley jump-cut, pirouetted, shimmied, shook, dodged, danced, clawed, scraped, and fought for every yard of grass he could crunch underneath his cleats. He eluded every Eagles defender in his path, leaving a collection of broken tackles in his dust, energizing the home fans with one spectacular run after another. The rookie was the Giants’ leading rusher (130 yards on 12 carries) and leading pass-catcher (99 yards on nine receptions). And yet still, for all Barkley’s brilliance, all of his blazing speed and athleticism, he isn’t equipped to carry this flawed franchise on his back.
Nor should he have to.
The Giants have a transcendent running back and one of the game’s best playmakers in Beckham. But they still can’t find ways to win.
Days after Beckham tried to convince us that this team would not fold, that this locker room was as tight as ever, he and his teammates displayed little cohesion, and even less fight, in a game they needed to win to save face and to salvage their season. The receiver’s recent comments in a widely viewed ESPN interview — in which he not-so-subtly laid blame for their offensive struggles at Manning’s feet — were supposed to galvanize the team. At least, that’s what Beckham and Shurmur led fans to believe.
Instead, the Giants are 4-19 in their past 23 games. Manning, who was 24-of-43 passing for 281 yards and one interception, looked scared and stiff in the pocket. He was rushed, unsure and inaccurate — the hallmarks of a quarterback who has little to no protection, and who isn’t putting his team in a position to consistently succeed.
Beckham — who reportedly was fined for his ESPN interview comments — provided little spark as well, registering just six receptions (on 10 targets) for 44 yards. “I hate losing, that’s the bottom line,” he said.
Bad teams have a way of self-sabotaging. And when the losses pile up, bad teams have a tendency to self-destruct. These Giants, however, believe that won’t happen to them. “Just keep working, and you trust the locker room to do the right thing,” Shurmur said, when asked how to ensure this season doesn’t spiral out of control.
Posed the same question, Beckham matter-of-factly said: “Just keep working harder, keep digging. That’s really all you can do at this point.”
These Giants will continue to tell you there still is time, that all hope is not lost, that reaching the playoffs may be a lofty goal, but not an unattainable one. But deep down, there are players in that locker room who believe differently. On paper, the Giants have the most talent in their division, and yet still, they can’t get out of their own way.
And until these Giants confront what’s truly plaguing them, the inefficiency and the ineptitude, the losing will continue.
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