Sports

NFL PLAYOFFS

Dropped passes help sink over-emotional Odell Beckham and Giants

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) misses a reception during the second half of the NFC wild-card game against the Packers in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (Matt Ludtke/AP Photo)

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) misses a reception during the second half of the NFC wild-card game against the Packers in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. (Matt Ludtke/AP Photo)

GREEN BAY, WIS. - 

Yacht’s all, folks.

That was Monday’s wicked kicker headline on the New York Post’s front, accompanying one of the infamous photos taken a week ago showing various New York Giants receivers lounging and partying with celebrities including Justin Bieber on a fancy boat off the coast of Miami.

What were Giants players doing there, six days before their wild-card playoff game at Green Bay, even though it was an off day for players? Exactly.

After a pair of those receivers -- rookie Sterling Shepard and, especially, superstar Odell Beckham Jr. -- came up small with big-moment drops in Sunday’s 38-13 loss to the Packers, you knew the New York media were gonna drill deep down afterward into that dumb, one-day, fun-in-the-sun decision.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning targeted Beckham 11 times, but the king of one-handed catches came down with just four, for 28 yards, and one grab came on the opening drive. One of Beckham’s two foul-handed drops was a sure touchdown, beautifully thrown by Manning. Beckham dropped a third pass in the second half, but while Manning threw that one quite high, the acrobatic receiver usually catches those.

Shepard dropped two passes, one at the Green Bay six-yard line that might have given New York a first-and-goal. Instead, the Giants settled for a short field goal and a 3-0 lead.

ESPN reported late Sunday night that Beckham was inconsolable afterward, and so livid after getting raked about the drops by the Big Apple press corps, he allegedly punched the wall outside the visiting team’s media interview room beneath Lambeau Field’s stands. ESPN showed a punch-sized hole in the drywall, about where Beckham allegedly let loose. ESPN said the NFL was investigating.

Beckham had told reporters that “at the end of the day, I went through practice (all last week), had zero drops, zero missed assignments. There was nothing that could connect seven days ago to today and how we played and executed.”

Maybe so. But Giants players afterward knew the yacht questions would come.

“He didn’t have the game that he wanted to have,” Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas said of Beckham. “I know that for sure. He had a couple of dropped passes and I am sure you guys are going to get after him a bit. I guess that comes with the territory.”

Was it the cold (-10C at kickoff, but not windy) that contributed to the drops? Shepard said no.

“We weren’t going to let that affect us. It was cold. Your fingers are cold. Everything is cold, but we have been playing this game since we were little, so that wasn’t a factor.”

What about nerves? Emotions? Those were more likely at the root of it, especially with the volatile Beckham.

“The way that he was prepared for the game, emotionally, might have been too much for him,” Casillas said of the third-year Pro Bowl player. “It happens every now and again.”

Manning hit on that point afterward, too, without naming Beckham in particular.

“When you have a young team like we do, a lot of the guys making the playoffs for the first time, I think you have to look at it as a learning situation (on) how to deal with the playoffs, how to get your mind right and don’t make it too big, so you can go out there and have your best performances in these games.”

Giants GM Jerry Reese said this of Beckham at his year-end news conference Monday:

"This is what I see -- I see a guy who needs to think about some of the things that he does. Everybody knows that he is a gifted player, but there are some things that he has done that he needs to look at himself in the mirror and be honest with himself about, and I think he will do that.

"We will help him with that, but he has to help himself, and we believe he will do that. He is a smart guy, but sometimes he doesn't do smart things."

Another factor? The Packers defence.

Although Green Bay’s secondary is pure patchwork -- fer gosh sake, the No. 1 cornerback now, LaDarius Gunter, began the season No. 4 on the depth chart -- the coverage schemes that defensive coordinator Dom Capers employed worked well.

“We had a lot of focus on No. 13 (Beckham),” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s just a tremendous player. I thought we did a good job keeping him in check. Hey, that’s a talented, talented perimeter group (of receivers). I thought Eli threw the ball very well today. We were scrappy, and we got it done.”

Manning, for instance, likes to hit Beckham on quick slant patterns. “OBJ” has taken such short throws the distance after speeding away from the trailing cornerback, then splitting two deep safeties up the middle.

The Packers, though, found “ways to eliminate” some of those pet routes of New York’s passing game, Beckham said, “cutting off with a corner on the inside, a safety over the top.”

To a man afterward, Packers offensive players thanked their defensive teammates for keeping them in the game. Their offence indeed had a lousy start; Green Bay had seven yards of total offence entering the second quarter, compared to New York’s 105. Thereafter, 399 yards and 38 points for Green Bay, 260 yards and seven points for New York.

“The key, I think, for the entire game was early on -- our defence with the stops in the red zone,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “If (the score is) 14-0 and not 6-0, it’s a different football game. So we’ve got to give those guys credit.”

The Packers now prepare to play at Dallas in the second NFC divisional playoff game (Sunday, 4:40 p.m. EST, CTV via FOX).

As for the Giants? They can pull up anchor and set sail any time they’d like.

JoKryk@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.com/krykslants/



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