Odell Beckham Jr. celebrated his fourth-quarter touchdown catch by performing CPR on the football, pumping life back into it and the Giants’ season.
It wasn’t long after that, though, that the team flatlined with another Beckham visual following a play.
The star receiver was carted off the field in tears with a nasty left ankle injury with four minutes left in Sunday’s game against the Chargers. The team said he suffered a fractured ankle that might require surgery. As he disappeared into the tunnel at MetLife Stadium, the Giants’ hopes for the season went with him.
The Chargers beat the Giants, 27-22, to saddle the Giants with an 0-5 record in a game that cost them four wide receivers to injuries. The Giants also lost Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall to ankle injuries on the same second-quarter drive, and Dwayne Harris fractured his foot on the second-half kickoff. Beckham’s, though, will be the most costly, as his foot stuck underneath him while taking a hit from Casey Hayward on an incomplete pass.
“He went down and I knew it wasn’t good,” tight end Evan Engram said of the injury. “I saw the other team waving for help. I just dropped and prayed for him.”
Engram said he did hear Beckham expressing his discomfort and his frustration over what became a lost season for both him and the team. Beckham covered his face with his jersey to shield his tears as he was carted to the locker room. He left the stadium on a cart, as well, his foot stabilized in a boot, crutches within reach, and his mother riding along with him.
“He was upset, he was in pain,” Engram said of Beckham in the moments after the injury. “It was tough. It was tough.”
The Giants held a lead when Beckham got hurt, and they seemed poised to notch their first victory. The crowd at MetLife was in a frenzy after the defense held the Chargers to a field goal after first-and-goal from the 8 that made it 22-20 with 4:50 left. When Beckham returned the ensuing kickoff without incident, it seemed as if the Giants were in terrific shape.
“We thought it was over with,” safety Landon Collins said. “As a defense, we were like, even if our offense doesn’t score, we’re going to make sure they get it with under two minutes [left] and make sure that we wouldn’t let them go down the field. We were ready for it.
“And drastic things happened after that.”
Beckham was hurt on a second-and-7 play from the 23, an incompletion on a pass thrown high by Eli Manning. It took several minutes to get him off the field, and when play resumed, Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram ran an inside stunt to sack Manning and force a fumble. Ingram recovered it at the 11 and three plays later, the Chargers scored on a 10-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Melvin Gordon to go up 27-22.
“I got tackled and landed on the defender, so I didn’t hit the ground and the ball popped up,” Manning said. “I’ve got to get two hands on the ball right there and take the sack and move on.”
Engram said it was difficult to go back to playing after Beckham was carted off.
“We lost a soldier, we lost a brother,” he said, “but we had a game and we had to try to keep winning.”
“We know how Odell is, he’s a great player,” said right guard D.J. Fluker, who with Bobby Hart missed the stunt by Ingram. “We know he’s being taken care of by our training staff, so at the moment, we have to go back out there and play. We’re playing for him.”
Playing without him, the Giants know, is much more challenging.
With most of their passing weapons unavailable, and rookie Engram lined up at receiver, the Giants tried to mount a winning drive. They got to midfield but on fourth-and-10 from the Chargers’ 48, Manning was intercepted by Tre Boston with 40 seconds left to seal the misery.
The Chargers (1-4) led 10-9 at halftime and were about to go ahead by more on their first possession of the third quarter but Darian Thompson stepped in front of a pass in the end zone for the Giants’ first interception of the season. That set up an 80-yard drive for the already receiver-thin Giants that ended with Manning hitting Roger Lewis Jr. — who wound up being the last healthy receiver on the roster — on a 29-yard touchdown in the front corner of the end zone for a 16-10 lead.
The Chargers responded with a long drive that included conversions on third-and-9, third-and-15, and third-and-6, and ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Hunter Henry with 40 seconds left in the third. That gave them a 17-16 lead.
The Giants still had Beckham at that point and used him. He caught a 48-yard touchdown with 13:31 left in the fourth to go up 22-17. The Giants took a delay-of-game penalty on the two-point conversion attempt and tried it from the 7, but Manning’s pass to Beckham was incomplete.
It was the Giants’ third straight loss in which they held a fourth-quarter lead.
“It’s insane,” said cornerback Eli Apple, who was benched and played sparingly. “Every game this year has been kind of close, but it’s been different [from last year]. We haven’t been able to close it out. I don’t know the reason, I can’t tell you why, but we’re not getting it done.”
Said Collins: “We just have to figure out what it is that’s hurting us at the end of the games. We’re playing well, we’re just not getting it. Not getting it.”
And now, with Beckham almost certainly lost for the season, getting anything will be made that much harder.