The Giants were down to their last chance, and anything less than a successful play would mean a fourth straight loss and more questions about whether this might turn into a lost season. Larry Donnell inexplicably couldn’t make it past the first-down marker on a third-down catch late in the fourth quarter, creating a fourth-and-1 scenario at the Giants’ 34 that ultimately would decide the outcome.
With 1:36 to play and the Giants trailing the Ravens 23-20, Eli Manning walked up to the line of scrimmage, surveyed the Ravens’ defense and signaled to Odell Beckham Jr. that he needed to change his pass route from the play that was called.
“You just try to get 1 yard, so you look at the defense a little bit — they were playing man-to-man, so there was an opportunity for one-on-one [coverage] with your best player,” Manning said.
The player he was referring to, of course, was Beckham, who was having one of his signature games and now had a chance to add an already transcendent performance. Beckham, lined up to the right of the formation, did as Manning told him and ran a slant pattern over the middle. Manning delivered the pass at the Giants’ 40, which was more than enough for the first down.
Beckham then turned it into the game-winning play, racing from right to left and sprinting past three defenders for a 66-yard touchdown. It was one of his biggest plays in a young career already filled with electric ones, but this one may have gone a long way toward saving the season.
Beckham finished with eight catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns to carry the Giants on his back for a 27-23 win in what turned out to be an electrifying finish. The Giants’ defense withstood one more drive from Joe Flacco, and the Giants stopped their losing streak at three games to get to 3-3. There’s still plenty of season left, to be sure, but another loss here would have dealt a serious blow.
With the Giants’ offense staggering during the losing streak and with questions about whether Manning was on the decline, it was the 23-year-old Beckham who lifted his team and his quarterback. He was as good as he’s been throughout his sometimes controversial two-plus seasons in the NFL, in part because he decided before last week’s game against the Packers to dispense with the nonsense and stop being baited into overreacting to opposing defenders.
“Sometimes you need bad to happen, and for me, I’ve always learned the hard way,” he said. “I’ve always had the really bad things happen, and then you’re able to bounce back from them. Going to Lambeau [Field in Green Bay], I said I’m just going to have fun. I’m going to go back to cherishing the moment.”
There was plenty to cherish on what turned into a career day for him, even if it didn’t start out like one.
Beckham lost a fumble on the Giants’ first play from scrimmage, a turnover that the Ravens converted into a 30-yard touchdown drive and a 10-0 first-quarter lead. He also suffered a hip pointer on a long pass in the second quarter and missed some time while being tended to in the locker room. But he was able to fight through the pain to make two of his most dynamic catches.
The first was a 75-yard touchdown with 2:10 to play in the third quarter, as Beckham ran a double move up the left side to beat single coverage. As he did on the winning play, Manning changed the play at the line.
“He called the double move and put [the ball] right where it needed to be,” Beckham said.
After the score, he celebrated by feigning a triple jump — he was a long jumper as a track-and-field star in high school — and again became reacquainted with the kicking net after the play. Poking fun at himself for having the net carom back and hit him when he got angry during a Week 3 game against Washington, Beckham lay down and placed the net over him for several seconds. After the winning score, he playfully proposed to the net, saying after the game that “she said yes.” And wouldn’t their kids look interesting, someone suggested. “Blonde nettish,” Beckham cracked.
His enthusiasm wasn’t without controversy, though. After scoring the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, he removed his helmet and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. He was lucky the 15-yard walk-off on the ensuing kickoff didn’t affect the outcome.
“I’m just thankful it didn’t hurt the team,” Beckham said, realizing his mistake and vowing not to let it happen again. “I already knew what was coming if we would have lost.”
Instead, the Giants survived the celebration and didn’t ruin an otherwise brilliant afternoon from their star receiver.
Beckham was back making plays the way he should be, and doing what he’s supposed to as one of the league’s most gifted receivers: winning games and not turning into a sideshow.
Odell Beckham Jr. is the fifth Giants receiver to gain over 200 yards in a game. The all-time leaders:
Del Shofner: 269, 10/28/62 vs. Washington
Odell Beckham Jr.: 222, 10/16/16 vs. Baltimore
Gene Roberts: 212, 11/13/49 vs. Green Bay
Plaxico Burress: 204, 10/2/05 vs. St. Louis
Amani Toomer: 204, 12/22/02 vs. Indianapolis
Gene Roberts: 201, 10/23/49 vs. Chicago