The New York Giants have a three-game winning streak after Sunday's 37-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams. Let's review the on-field, and off-field, action in our usual 'Kudos & Wet Willies' style.
Kudos To ...
Odell Beckham -- There will be some thoughts on the celebrations and the fight at the conclusion of our 'Kudos & Wet Willies.' For now, though, this is about football. Eight catches, 148 yards, two touchdowns for Beckham on Sunday. He has 79 catches and 1,120 receiving yards, both franchise records for rookies and tops among a stellar rookie receiving class. In 11 games! The 79 catches is the most ever for an NFL player in his first 11 games. Beckham has six 100-yard receiving games. As Tom Rock of Newsday pointed out, Beckham may well be on the best run ever by a wide receiver. Might as well just start etching Beckham's name into the Offensive Rookie of the Year trophy.
Eli Manning -- The quarterback went 25-of-32 for 391 yards and three touchdowns, a passer rating of 148.8, and was barely noticed in all the commotion. Manning, for whatever he is not, showed once again on Sunday, that he is pretty darn good when his blockers keep him upright and his receivers make plays. Manning was sacked just once and hit only three other times in 33 drop-backs Sunday, and Beckham, Rueben Randle (six catches, a career-best 132 yards), Preston Parker and Larry Donnell all made plays when Manning gave them the opportunity.
Andre Williams -- Williams hasn't always shown patience running the ball during his rookie season, but, boy, when he gets through a hole at the line of scrimmage he is fun to watch. What he did to Rams' safety Rodney McLeod, running through him like he wasn't there during his 45-yard run, was reminiscent of Brandon Jacobs. You also have to love Williams' post-game quote: "That [going through McLeod] really was the path of least resistance. Sometimes DBs look like they're there but they're really not there."
Rueben Randle -- That is how you get yourself out of the doghouse! After sitting out the first quarter in two of the last three games for disciplinary reasons, Randle had the best game of his career on Sunday. His contested 49-yard catch is the kind of play the Giants have been looking for from him, and the kind of play Manning has not gotten from receivers not named Beckham often enough over the past two seasons. Despite the inconsistency and disciplinary issues, Randle has 65 catches this season. He is still only 23 years old. Maybe, just maybe, added maturity and Tom Coughlin's tough love will help him reach the potential the Giants saw when they took him in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Giants' Offensive Line -- The Giants struggled much of the year with blitzes and stunts. Not so much Sunday against the aggressive, blitz-happy Rams. Manning was comfy in the pocket all day. The Giants ran the ball effectively. Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald were non-factors. Yes, Will Beatty had four holding penalties. Quinn, though, barely got near Manning all day. Quinn had one hit on Manning. Donald, the star rookie defensive tackle, didn't even make the stat sheet while playing 53 snaps, usually lined up in front of the oft-maligned John Jerry.
Kerry Wynn -- When you are an undrafted rookie free agent who was an afterthought most of the season and the head coach goes out of his way to talk about you during his post-game press conference, which Coughlin did Sunday, you have done something special. Wynn had a sack, a fumble recovery, an interception and three tackles, one for loss. He already looks like everything the Giants hope Damontre Moore will eventually be. If this isn't a mirage, and Moore continues to improve, that could be fun to watch.
Orleans Darkwa -- Giants' fans have been curious about this guy since he was signed off the Miami Dolphins' practice squad. Before Sunday we saw glimpses. Against the Rams, though, Darkwa made a real impact. And an impression. He forced a fumble on a kickoff that Nat Berhe recovered. He carried four times for 21 yards, including a twisting, determined 12-yard touchdown run. Darkwa, used extensively Sunday as the third-down back, looks like a keeper.
Wet Willies To ...
There really are no Giants who stand out as deserving 'Wet Willies' on Sunday. Beatty had those four holding penalties -- one conveniently in each quarter -- but really did a nice job on Quinn. Jason Pierre-Paul has a poor Pro Football Focus grade (-5.0), but had a sack to reach double digits for the season. The overall pass coverage wasn't great.
The real 'Wet Willie' for the day has to go the Rams defense, for their blatant efforts to punish and intimidate Beckham after the whistle. Reading and listening to what Giants players said after the game they went into it expecting some nonsense from the Rams. They got it. Way too much of it. The Rams didn't seem interested in playing football, only in making Beckham pay for being good -- and maybe overly exuberant. Others have pointed out that Gregg Williams, yes, the Gregg Williams of Bounty-Gate notoriety, is the Rams defensive coordinator. Draw your own conclusions there.
There has been, and will continue to be a great deal of discussion about Beckham and his showy post-touchdown celebrations. Former NFL head of officiating Mike Periera said via Twitter that Beckham, and other NFL players, need to cool it with the showboating because it incites the opposition. Coughlin agreed, giving Beckham an earful about the taunting penalty and saying he "will tone it down." Beckham, for his part, "didn't quite understand" the fuss.
I do. Perhaps that is because I am much closer to Pereira and Coughlin, both age-wise and culturally. Beckham is a great player, and his exuberance and showmanship is part of what makes him who he is. Personally I am not a big fan of these wild end-zone celebrations, but I long ago realized the days of just handing the ball to the official or spiking it are long gone. They are now part of the game.
The line you have to be careful to cross is when your celebration shows up the opposition. Intentionally or not, Beckham's timing did that on Sunday. Dan Graziano wrote that "Beckham has to be conscious of the way his antics are viewed by officials and opponents." Eli Manning said that if Beckham is going to showboat and draw attention to himself "he's just got to know, around the sidelines when people can take shots, they're going to."
This is a lesson Victor Cruz learned, with annoyed opponents mocking his salsa dance. It was good, in a way, to see teammates willing to stand up for their star wide receiver on Sunday. Thing is, Beckham needs to find a way to make sure his teammates don't have to do that. Drawing penalties and putting teammates in positions where they get ejected from games doesn't help. Neither does bringing extra physical punishment upon himself.
Beckham puts on enough of a show with the ball in his hands. He just needs to pick his spots a little better when that show ends and the celebrating begins.