T here were nerves and there were tears. And some can-this-really-be-happening-to-me moments, too, the kind he experienced at the NFL draft when his name was called with the Giants' 12th overall pick.
There's only one first-game experience, and Odell Beckham Jr.'s emotions ran the gamut. From pregame nerves in the locker room and during warm-ups, to tears of joy during the national anthem, to a feeling of exultation when he scored his first NFL touchdown .
"That feeling, that's something I can't even describe,'' Beckham said of his 15-yard touchdown catch with 10:02 to play, which turned out to be the winning score in the Giants' 30-20 win over the Falcons.
The emotions for fellow rookie Andre Williams were more subdued, in part because he'd already experienced his first-game moment in the regular-season opener. But like Beckham, who finally made his debut after recovering from a nagging hamstring problem, Williams had a first-game moment of sorts. After Rashad Jennings suffered a knee injury, he powered the running game in the second half and scored a touchdown for the second straight game.
Williams' 3-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter began the Giants' comeback from a 10-point deficit, and then Beckham's TD put them ahead for good. It was the Giants' third straight win heading into a crucial stretch of NFC East games against the Eagles and Cowboys.
That's a good look for the Giants' retooled offense, which is no longer "broken,'' as team president John Mara so succinctly declared after the 2013 team's 7-9 season. With Eli Manning looking more and more comfortable in Ben McAdoo's West Coast offense, the contributions from this year's rookie class put a nice exclamation point on this early-season surge.
Beckham showed the kind of speed and nifty route-running that convinced the Giants to take him with their highest pick of the Jerry Reese era.
With fans cheering him warmly as he jogged onto the field for the Giants' second series, he shook off the nerves with his first catch, a 7-yarder that moved the ball to the Atlanta 11 on the team's first touchdown drive. He added three more catches, including the touchdown reception on a double move that put him in perfect position to catch Manning's pass on the left side of the end zone.
There was one other notable pass in Beckham's direction, and even though it fell incomplete, it sent an unmistakable message. Beckham ran a "go'' route down the left sideline and was in position to catch what likely would have been an 81-yard touchdown pass. Manning, under a heavy rush, wound up throwing the ball out of bounds. If he'd had more time, he'd have given Beckham a chance to make a play.
"I knew he had a 'go' route [but] I wasn't going to be able to sit there and wait for it,'' Manning said. "It looks bad on film, but under the circumstances, it's a throwaway.''
Even so, it had an impact on how the Falcons played Beckham the rest of the game. Because they had to respect his speed, cornerbacks gave him a bigger cushion, thus allowing him more room to maneuver. His touchdown reception reflected that more careful coverage.
Williams' challenge was a bit different but no less daunting. With Jennings suffering a left knee injury early in the second half, Williams suddenly was the feature back. Not a problem. He had 20 carries for 65 yards.
"He is a tough, hard-nosed runner. That's why he's here,'' coach Tom Coughlin said. "He can get himself low to the ground and has outstanding leg strength.''
Jennings himself couldn't have been more impressed.
"I was in here yelling and coaching him up from the TV,'' he said. "I'm happy to see him get his feet wet. He's going to continue to grow and be a dominant player in this league.''
It's a long way from here to dominant, but we get the idea. Same with Beckham, who flashed some of the potential the Giants first saw in him.
Two rookies, two impressive performances in yet another impressive win, and things are looking up for an offense that entered the season with more questions than answers. Beckham and Williams sure look like part of the solution.