By any measure, what we’ve seen so far from Odell Beckham Jr. is spectacular. Historically spectacular, in fact.
By the numbers: Beckham is off to the best start of any wide receiver. Ever. Through 25 games, he has 176 catches for 2,625 yards and 24 touchdowns, more than Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (91-1,801-12) or soon-to-be Hall of Famer Randy Moss (110-1,957-23).
By the breathtaking athleticism on so many of his catches, including two touchdowns in the Giants’ potentially season-saving 31-24 win Monday night at Miami. How he caught the ball and got both feet inbounds on his 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter is mind-numbing, even in slow motion. And the burst he showed on his 84-yarder to put the Giants ahead to stay, when he beat the Dolphins on a slant-and-go? Almost beyond words.
But there’s something else in Beckham’s game that is just as important as his statistics and balletic movements. It’s impossible to quantify this characteristic, but those who know him best see it every day. Not just on game day.
It’s called heart.
Beyond the talent, the athleticism, the sheer physical greatness lies a competitiveness that few players at any position possess, regardless of how good they are. The guy just wants to win. Every game, every play. It’s what elevates his game even beyond what the numbers can explain.
On Monday, when the Giants needed him most, he rose to the occasion with the flair that is such a big part of his game. Beckham, who had a stomach virus last week, was badly dehydrated at the start of the second half. He needed two bags of intravenous fluids and missed part of the first drive of the third quarter. There were three IV bags in all, including pregame treatment.
Beckham did his best work after returning to the field, catching the two touchdowns that proved the difference in the game and kept the 6-7 Giants tied for first in the NFC East. On the Monday Night Football stage, he played as big as the moment.
It was not a surprise to those who know him best.
“It says a lot about him,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “It says that he’s a great competitor. He loves to play. He wants to win. Nobody wants to win more than he does.”
And that’s what separates Beckham from so many of his peers, past and present. There may come a time when he turns into a me-first receiver obsessed with getting the ball, almost to the exclusion of his team’s success, but it’s doubtful. You just don’t get the feeling he will look at himself as bigger than the game, the way some self-absorbed players often become deeper into their careers.
Yes, he wants the ball. But more than anything, he wants the ball because it gives him a chance to help his team win.
“He sets the example,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Guys see how he practices. They see how every play is full speed. There’s not a difference in his game speed and his practice speed. That’s a tribute to him and the way he goes after it. That’s contagious also. The other guys see it and realize that’s the way you have to play and the way you have to practice.”
The fact that Manning and Beckham could collaborate just hours before kickoff on what would become the winning play also speaks to the receiver’s relentless preparation and desire to win. The two watched game tape in the team hotel and saw that the Dolphins might line up in a certain formation the Giants could take advantage of with a certain play, despite the fact they hadn’t practiced the play for several weeks.
Manning called his shot in the fourth quarter. Beckham ran the slant-and-go and got behind the Miami defense for the winning score.
It was another example of the brilliance of Beckham, of how his game is about more than just the numbers. It’s about the passion to win that burns inside.
Over his first 25 games, Odell Beckham Jr. ranks first among wide receivers in the Super Bowl era in receptions, yards and touchdowns:
With three games left in the regular season, Beckham has a chance to set the two-season records for all three major receiving categories: most receptions, most receiving yards, most receiving touchdowns.
Bob Glauber | newsday.com | December 15, 2015