ST. LOUIS - The game was on a dangerous simmer from start to finish, but Sunday's slugfest between the Giants and Rams finally boiled over late in the first half in the form of a brawl that resulted in three ejections.
Not surprisingly, the drama centered around the man of the hours at the Edward Jones Dome: rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr., whom the Rams seemed to target early and often during the Giants' 37-27 victory.
With the Giants leading 20-10 shortly before the two-minute warning, Beckham caught a 6-yard pass to the Giants' 26-yard line, where Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree rode him and hit him after he was out of bounds, drawing a flag. "He took me out of bounds," Beckham said. "I felt him kind of pick me up and try and dunk me."
Ogletree shoved a hand in Beckham's face, igniting a confrontation during which receiver Preston Parker and then defensive end Damontre Moore came to Beckham's defense on the crowded sideline.
Parker and Moore were ejected, as was the Rams' William Hayes.
Parker and Moore both said they regretted being tossed and potentially hurting the team, but neither regretted backing a teammate under duress. "I shouldn't have acted as physically; I should have made sure and got Odell up," Parker said.
Still, he added: "If I could change it, I wouldn't change it. I won't say I don't have regrets, but I wouldn't have changed it at that particular second."
Moore had a similar take, saying: "I should have been smarter mentally and controlled my emotions, but the way I was thinking was that was a brother, he was in danger. I was going to go out there and help my brother."
Asked if he had any regrets, Moore paused, then said, "No, no . . . As far as protecting my family, no, I'm not sorry for it."
Beckham apologized for things getting out of hand but said he "loved" the support.
As for the Rams, coach Jeff Fisher said someone had told him Beckham said something about setting an NFL record against his team, but he did not cite a source.
Ogletree denied having done anything wrong on the play and defensive end Chris Long said, "I don't think he meant anything bad by it."
The Giants weren't so sure about that. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul called the Rams' style "very dirty" and linebacker Jameel McClain said: "Nobody likes being punched in the back of the head while they walk away. That's just basic."
Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was at the center of the Saints' bounty scandal several years ago.
Asked if he thought the Rams were targeting Beckham, Moore said, "The NFL is a non-targeting league and they do not accept that or tolerate those who do." But . . . "film don't lie, so everybody can make their own opinions and assumptions."
Said safety Antrel Rolle: "We understand how they play ball. It's something we've seen on film."
Then they saw it in person, and reacted. Parker said he never had been ejected before and is not happy about the fine that will come with it. "I didn't like the feeling," he said, "but I wouldn't change what I did."