Odell Beckham Jr. had the worst game of his professional career on Monday night, catching just three passes for 23 yards against the Minnesota Vikings.
Worse, still, he had yet another spat with an opposing cornerback, which resulted in a mini-temper tantrum and almost caused him to be ejected.
In the second quarter, Beckham caught a pass from Eli Manning and, just as he crossed out of bounds, took a hit from Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The hit, which appeared to be out of bounds, went unpenalized, which caused Beckham to lose his cool, butt helmets with Rhodes, and then make contact with a ref in protestation.
He was lucky to escape with only a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, though under the new NFL rules this year, one more of those would also have resulted in an ejection.
Here’s the play. The penalty on Beckham was for taunting and came after the cameras moved away from the action:
This is starting to feel like a weekly occurrence from Beckham. Ever since he and Josh Norman nearly killed each other at the end of last season, Beckham has shown that he is too easily aggravated by any sort of provocation from his defenders.
That only makes him an easier target: defences will continue to target him, to bump him after catches, and lay especially big hits, knowing that it will provoke him and effectively take himself out of the game.
Against the Redskins in Week 3, he appeared to be crying on the sidelines and got in a fight with a kicking net. Against the Vikings on Monday night, several players had to calm him down, talk to him on the way to the locker room at half time, and on the sidelines in the second half.
After the Vikings game, Giants GM Jerry Reese felt the need to go over to his locker and give him a talking-to. Head coach Ben McAdoo has already called his behaviour a distraction.
Manning has expressed his frustration, saying the team can’t afford the silly penalties.
“He’s got to play smart,” Manning said, according to the New York Daily News. “He can’t afford to do anything they will call. He’s kind of brought that upon himself, so he’s got to realise that . . . No doubt. Can’t afford the penalties.”
Beckham, meanwhile, seems to have adopted a “me against the world” attitude.
“There’s never an explanation (from the officials),” Beckham said after the game. “It’s always it’s just my fault. That’s all I look at it as, it’s my fault. I just have to understand if I sneeze the wrong way it will be a flag, it will be a fine. If I tie my shoe the wrong way it might be a fine or a flag.”
He added: “As tough as it is to understand for a 23-year-old who has been blessed with a lot — God has given me a lot of ability, amazing amount of everything — and it seems like it’
s all working against you. But what are you gonna do, are you gonna back down or stand up? And I’ve never been one to back down.”
There’s no denying that Beckham is among the most talented receivers in football. And the Vikings are perhaps the league’s best defence. He’s not going to catch just three passes per game very often, and even if he hasn’t scored a touchdown yet this season, he’s bound to soon.
The Giants have other issues, too. They are reeling at 2-2, suddenly in last place in their division. With Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings both sidelines, the run game isn’t dangerous. That means teams can continue to double-team Beckham without thinking twice. Manning, meanwhile, continues to throw bad interceptions.
But until Beckham is able to make a nice catch, or take a cheap shot, and just run back to the huddle without any nonsense, cornerbacks around the league are only going to continue to provoke him. He’s too good, and too important, to let them get to him.
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