ST. LOUIS** – The St. Louis Rams clearly aren't enjoying Odell Beckham Jr's amazing debut season as much as the Giants are.
On Sunday, the remarkable rookie strafed a Rams defense that was frustrated by its inability to slow down the Beckham express. His latest big game included eight receptions, 148 yards and two touchdowns, one of them an 80-yarder, in a 37-27 Giants victory, their third in a row, in the Edward Jones Dome.
Beckham posted those impressive stats despite St. Louis' attempts to both stop and harass him.
One Rams defender, safety T.J. McDonald, was penalized for taunting Beckham after a five-yard catch. The 12-yard infraction moved the ball to the St. Louis 12, and the Giants scored on the next play.
The Giants opened their next series with a six-yard pass from Eli Manning to Beckham on the right sideline. Linebacker Alec Ogletree hit Beckham late out of bounds, and then pushed him when the receiver popped up. That precipitated a wild brawl in which the Giants stood up and fought for Beckham. When it ended, Giants receiver Preston Parker and defensive end Damontre Moore of the Giants and William Hayes of the Rams were ejected with 2:03 left in the second quarter.
Did Beckham get under their skin?>> WATCH GIANTS VS. RAMS HIGHLIGHTS
"To an extent, I definitely felt that," Beckham said. "Since the very first play, I just felt as if there was a bunch of
hawks and they were all eyeing you. We knew that was going to be the case. I was just trying to find a way to keep my composure and not getting the little penalties that are going to hurt the team was something that was difficult today. But I tried my best to just keep my head in the game and stay the course."
"They were definitely trying to intimidate him," tackle Justin Pugh said. "They definitely didn't want him to try to go across the middle, but I guess they weren't too effective on that plan. He went off again on a defense."
Beckham was grateful the team rallied around him.
"I loved it," he said. "That's a team that's playing for the man next to you, but it's something that we can't do. You play snap to whistle, and whatever else is after that, we leave it alone. I definitely apologize for our actions, but for the intensity and the passion that they brought to the game, I can't fault them for that."
"We're supposed to be playing as a team," rookie running back Andre William said. "I don't think we really come
out on Sundays to get in a fight, but we knew it was going to be a physical game and we can't lay down and let people continue to hit us after the whistle. I'm glad we rallied. I'm not glad that the play turned into a huge brawl. I don't think that is really part of our identity, but it came to it and we had to defend our own."
Tom Coughlin wasn't interested in having a lengthy discussion on the extracurricular activity, but when asked if the players coming to Beckham's defense sparked the team going forward, he said, "I don't think it hurt, to be honest with you. But I think, quite frankly, settling down the Rams sideline and settling down our sideline became the issue. We got under control. We came in at halftime, and I think we had it all settled."
The Giants were not completely innocent. Indeed, Beckham picked up his own taunting penalty for spinning the football after his first touchdown. Talk about getting under someone's skin. Coughlin has clearly had enough of those celebrations.
"He will tone it down," Coughlin said. "He will. He did."
Coughlin preferred to focus on the game, and it included numerous positives aside from Beckham. Eli Manning had a career-high 148.8 passer rating by completing 25 of 32 passes for 391 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Rueben Randle caught Manning's third touchdown pass and had six receptions for 132 yards, giving the Giants two 100-yard receivers for the first time since the 2013 season opener in Dallas. Williams rushed for 110 yards, including as 45-yarder. The Giants did not have an offensive turnover for the second game in a row.
"The offense was clicking from the start," Manning said. "We moved the ball well all game. We had a couple of
big runs. We got the ball out quickly. We had a couple of big plays down the field, which was nice, and we were pretty effective against a good defense, a defense that has got a great front four. They've lately been getting a lot of pressure and a lot of sacks. Not many teams have been scoring many points on them and (they had given up) no touchdowns in a while (three consecutive games), so it was nice to go out there and play well and have a great feel for what they were doing."
Rookie defensive end Kerry Wynn highlighted the defensive effort with a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Josh Brown opened the game with the first of his three field goals, a 29-yarder. Nat Berhe recovered Benny Cunningham's fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the St. Louis 21-yard line, a takeaway that led to Manning's nine-yard touchdown pass to Beckham. Greg Zuerlein got the Rams on the board with a 51-yard field goal.
In the second quarter, Brown booted a 37-yard field goal and Orleans Darkwa scored his first professional touchdown on a 12-yard run (immediately after McDonald's taunting penalty) to give the Giants a 20-3 lead with 4:49 remaining in the second quarter. But rookie Tre Mason scored on a 10-yard run and Zuerlein added a 20-yard field goal to cut the Giants' lead to 20-13 at halftime.
The teams combined to throw three touchdown passes in less than seven minutes in the third quarter. Manning
hit Randle for a seven-yard score. St. Louis countered with Shaun Hill's 23-yard scoring pass to tight end Lance Kendricks. On their next series the Giants faced a third-and-10 from their own 20. If they gave up the ball, St. Louis would be in position to drive for the tying touchdown. So naturally, the Giants called on Beckham. He got behind the Rams secondary and caught Manning's pass at the St. Louis 40 and sprinted to the end zone for his 11th touchdown of the season and a 34-20 lead. Beckham dropped the ball before picking it up and handing it to the nearest official without celebration.
"They ended up giving us the perfect coverage for it," Beckham said. "I got up on the safety and just made a move outside and came back inside and Eli let it go. It was great to finally have…not finally, but to have time with the offensive line giving him great protection out there and allowing us to get some shots down the field and finally being able to connect on one… You catch it and running free – there's no better feeling than that."
And no better feeling than helping your team win a game when the opposition is so intent on not letting that happen.