Here’s a crazy idea: If you get Odell Beckham Jr. the ball early and often, good things happen.
The Giants learned that lesson firsthand again on Sunday in a 27-13 victory over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Beckham finished with six catches on 11 targets for 96 yards and two scores. He also took over as punt returner for the second half and had a touchdown called back because of a penalty.
The more touches, the merrier. And the star wide receiver said after the game that his involvement from the outset of the contest was the key behind his standout performance. Eli Manning targeted Beckham six times on his first eight throws in the opening quarter Sunday. Last week against the Bears, Beckham’s sixth target didn’t come until the fourth quarter.
“You’re getting the opportunity to make plays. You’re getting an opportunity to catch balls. And we did it early, and it gives you confidence as a receiver when you get involved early,” said Beckham, who went to the locker room twice in the first half because of a thumb injury. “I feel like it puts me in a position to cause trouble for the rest of the game.”
And boy, did Beckham cause trouble.
First, he put the Giants ahead 14-3 with less than two minutes remaining before the half. A 37-yard reception from Victor Cruz set Big Blue up at the Browns’ 32. Two plays later, Beckham ran a short crossing route against Pro Bowl corner Joe Haden. Manning hit his receiver in stride, and Beckham took off like a blur.
He glided away from Haden, and thanks to a block from Cruz, sped into the front corner of the end zone. “It kind of just turned into a footrace,” Beckham said.
When the teams returned from halftime, Beckham replaced Bobby Rainey as the Giants’ punt returner. Rainey had muffed a punt in the second quarter, and starting returner Dwayne Harris continues to be hampered by multiple injuries. So Ben McAdoo turned to his “sure-handed” and explosive receiver.
The move nearly paid dividends in the fourth quarter when Beckham fielded a punt, cut up field and outsprinted the Browns coverage unit for what appeared to be a 59-yard touchdown. But a Mark Herzlich holding penalty nullified the return. “He’s electric with the ball in his hands,” McAdoo said.
Beckham then put the finishing touches on his afternoon late in the fourth quarter. With the Giants leading by just seven points and eight minutes remaining, Beckham caught a 41-yard pass down the middle of the field, nearly breaking it for a score.
Four plays later, he caught his second touchdown of the day from four yards out.
“We’ve got to find ways to keep him in the game,” Manning said. “Teams are obviously game-planning to slow him down and prevent catches, so we’ve got to take advantage and be creative and find ways to get him the ball.”
Daniel Popper | nydailynews.com | November 27, 2016