Given Odell Beckham Jr.’s history of volatility — and there was another moment of frustration Thursday night, literally a head-banging-against-the-wall moment — he might be the last guy you think of in terms of putting the Giants’ season in perspective.
But there was Beckham, just a few minutes after expressing his frustrations following the Giants’ 24-19 loss to the Eagles, calmly sitting in front of his locker and offering a sober assessment of why he hasn’t lost faith in his team despite such a dispiriting result.
If you want to accuse Beckham of failing to control his emotions when he grumbled to himself and hit his head three times against a steel wall outside the locker room, go ahead. If you’d like to add it to his list of temperamental shortcomings, of which there have been many, fine.
But you also must be willing to view this through the prism of a frustrated athlete who was simply upset about a bitter defeat that he had done everything humanly possible to avoid.
Many athletes who take losses personally and knock over a garbage can in the locker room or scream in exasperation are lauded for having the kind of commitment to winning that results in boiling emotions after a loss.
Beckham has done enough damage to his reputation with his frequent hey-look-at-me moments and his misplaced anger — as was the case when he delivered that gratuitous head shot to the Panthers’ Josh Norman last December. But this was not one of them, not when he was hitting his own head against the wall because his team had come so close to clinching a playoff berth for the first time in his career.
Say what you will about Beckham, but do not say he is not passionate about winning for its own sake. He is fiercely competitive and will give you everything he’s got in every game. His 11 catches for 150 yards were the biggest part of the Giants’ offense, and he even blamed himself when Eli Manning badly overthrew him in the end zone in the final minute of the game.
Manning himself was the biggest culprit in the loss, throwing three interceptions — one for a pick-6 — and failing to deliver the kind of clutch late-game performance that has been his signature over the years. Beckham was not part of the problem, and once he settled down from his immediate postgame frustration, he offered the kind of message his teammates can rally around.
Manning has been the biggest provider of perspective in moments like this, but this time it was Beckham who served up a heavy dose of optimism and resolve moving forward.
“We had an opportunity to end the game with the offense on the field and we just didn’t make it happen,” he said. “But there’s definitely a lot of progress and we can tell even from fighting back that this team has what it takes. This is a learning curve for us, and I’d much rather have this happen today than down the road. You take this and learn from it. We’re going to grow and we’re going to come out fired up next week knowing what we have to do. Just got to dig, scratch and claw, find a way to win.”
A win over the Redskins on Jan. 1 at FedEx Field would assure the Giants of a playoff berth, but they are just as likely to get into the tournament by virtue of a favorable result either Saturday or Monday in any of four games involving one of their competitors in the wild-card race.
Backing into the playoffs that way certainly wouldn’t feel as good as it would have if the Giants had beaten the Eagles, but you don’t apologize for getting into the playoffs no matter how it happens.
Despite scoring fewer than 20 points for a fourth straight game, Beckham saw progress with the offense.
“We’re doing things well. We’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “It’s hard to fight an uphill battle, and we’ve got to find a way not to come out and let a team do that early. But we’ve still got one more game.”
The Giants let the Eagles go up 14-0 less than seven minutes into the first quarter, with the usually reliable defense allowing Carson Wentz to drive the length of the field and Manning throwing his first interception, a 34-yard pick-6 by Malcolm Jenkins.
They fought back nicely, getting to within 21-13 at halftime. But Manning threw two more interceptions and the Giants didn’t get into the end zone again, settling for four Robbie Gould field goals before Manning’s final interception on a deep pass intended for tight end Will Tye.
“When you’re trying to score 14 points in one drive, it’s not going to happen,” Beckham said of the Giants’ impatience on several drives. “We got knocked down early. They hit us right in the mouth. We knew what type of game it was going to be.”
Beckham believes this team does have what it takes to not only get into the playoffs but do something meaningful — assuming they get there.
“We’re not going to get frustrated,” he said. “This isn’t going to make or break who we are. If anything, I think it’ll make this team stronger.”
But he knows time is running out, especially to put together a breakout game on offense.
“It hasn’t been there, but what if next week it’s there? I think everything goes out the window then,” he said. “Then you’d be talking about the offense and what an explosive game we had and not what we’re not doing. It’s just timing. I truly believe it will all come together at the right time.”
He adds only one caveat, the most important factor of all.
“The time,” he said, “is pretty much now.”