Footbrawl. Adjective. When a game of American Football degenerates from a contest of yardage acquisition into something that resembles a professional wrestling match. It happens several times each season, usually when frustration boils over in a blowout and the losing players start fighting. A brawl broke out in the second quarter of yesterday’s Giants at Rams game when linebacker Kevin Ogletree hit rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham out of bounds and then gave him a shove on the face mask to punctuate it. Beckham throw the football at him and his teammates came in droves to protect him. Steve Weatherford, who was practicing punts nearby deserves special mention, because he kept Beckham out of the fray and made certain that the high motor receiver did not get ejected. Damonte Moore and Preston Parker were, along with Rams defensive end William Hayes. Ogletree, surprisingly, survived, and the Giants were energized, winning the game 37-27, bringing their December winning streak to three games.
The Rams won the opening coin toss an deferred, giving the Giants the ball, and Eli Manning took advantage, finding Larry Donnell for 11 and then Rueben Randle for 49 on the game’s fourth play, setting up a red zone opportunity. The drive stalled when Beckham could not convert a third down pass and Josh Brown made a 29 yard field goal to give the Giants a 3-0 lead. The Giants drive 69 yards in 8 plays, using 4:19 before kicking the field goal.
Benny Cunningham fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Orleans Darkwa recovered, giving Manning a first down on the Rams 21. This second opportunity was not wasted as he found Beckham on the right side of the end zone for a 9 yard touchdown pass. The rookie showed off his change of direction ability as he turned Rams safety T.J. McDonald around with a quick move to the left before cutting back to the right to haul in his tenth touchdown of the season. After the score, Beckham made a point of looking for McDonald before spinning the ball on the ground, drawing a taunting penalty and the ire of Tom Coughlin.
Will Beatty also drew a holding penalty on the drive, which covered the 21 yards in 5 plays and took 2:10. Beatty drew Rams leading sacker Robert Quinn and hooked him on the play, a completion to Preston Parker. Manning found Randle on the subsequent play and was able to convert before he found Beckham for the score.
On the kickoff, which was from the 20 yard line due to the taunting penalty, Josh Brown was called for unnecessary roughness when he back kicked (think mule) out of the pile when a player came on his from behind. The additional fifteen yards set the Rams up with first and ten from the Giants 48, but the defense stopped then when Jason Pierre-Paul registered a sack, giving him 10.5 on the season, and Greg Zeurlein boomed a 51 yard field goal to cut the Giants lead to 10-3. After a Giants punt, the defense came through again, this time with a turnover, when rookie defensive end Kerry Wynn intercepted a pass tipped into the air be Tavon Austin giving the Giants the ball at mid field.
The drive was almost stopped before it started when an apparent completion to Donnell down the left sideline was ruled incomplete on the field. Coughlin challenged and it was overturned. The drive stalled on Beatty’s second holding penalty against Quinn, he tackled him, and Manning was unable to overcome it. On 4th and 3, Brown kicked a 37 yard field goal to expand the Giants lead to 13-3. The scoring drive was 7 plays, 37 yards, and took 3:15 off the clock.
The Giants defense continued to stymie the Rams offense and forced a punt. Starting at his own 20, Ben McAdoo turned to his ground game and Andre Williams carried the ball 4 times, for 8 yards, including a tough 2 yard gain on 3rd and 1, to complement Manning completions to Parker and Beckham. Rookie Darkwa finished the drive with a 12 yard scamper to expend the Giants lead to 20-3. The 80 yard drive lasted 10 plays and took 5:38 off the clock.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie appeared to stop the Rams again with an interception, but was called for pass interference, setting up St. Louis with a first down at the Giants 15. Running back Tre Mason capitalized two plays with a 10 yard run to cut the Giants lead to 20-10 and the Rams were creeping back into the ball game as the two minute warning approached. The Giants would run one play before the brawl erupted after Beckham quick 6 yard catch up the right sideline.
Beckham said after the game that he felt the Rams eyes on his from the game’s first play. His comments were not as bold as those made by Jameel McClain, who called the Rams. “A dirty ass team,” and Antrel Rolle, who accused St. Louis of trying to knock Beckham out of the game with cheap shots. Adding fuel to the fire is the reputation of Rams defensive coordinator Greg Williams, who was infamously suspended for a season after being accused of putting bounties out on opponents when he was defensive coordinator of the Saints.
Following the three ejections, the Giants were left with 2nd and 25 at their own 13 yard line. Despite the Rams Ogletree initiating the incident, the officials determined that Parker and Moore were responsible for stoking the flames and punished the Giants more severely. Weatherford punted shortly thereafter and the Rams were able to drive to the Giants 2 yard line before kicking a field goal to make the score 20-13 Giants at the half. The Giants accumulated 9 penalties for 112 yards in the first half and were being baited by the Rams into playing slopping football.
The first drive of the second half had Rodgers-Cromartie’s second interception wiped out, this time by an offsides penalty by Pierre-Paul. The Giants defense rose to the occasion and registered the only stop by either defense in the quarter, forcing a Johnny Hekker punt.
Manning lead the Giants on a 7 play, 87 yard drive that featured a 45 yard burst up the middle by Williams, in between a series of short burst runs by both he and Darkwa, allowing the Giants to amass 60 yards on 5 carries on the drive that saw Manning find Randle in the end zone for just the third time this season, giving the Giants a 27-13 lead. The drive took 3:58.
Hill answered by driving the Rams 90 yard on 10 plays using mostly Mason runs to gash the Giants defense. He found tight end Lance Kendricks for a 23 yard touchdown to bring the Giants lead back down to 7, at 27-20, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Beckham continued to torch the Rams vaunted defense, and found a gap, slipping behind safeties McDonald and Mark Barron to haul in an 80 yard strike from Manning. Beckham was five yard past the entire Rams defense and didn’t have to run full speed on the touchdown that covered 80 yards on 3 plays and took just 59 second of game time. The Giants took a 34-20 lead as the fourth quarter got underway.
On the play before the touchdown, McDonald targeted Beckham on an incompletion with a hit that appeared to be leading with his helmet. Had Beckham caught the ball, and taken the blow, it would have undoubtedly been flagged as a hit on a defenseless receiver, but as the pass was incomplete, Beckham avoided the shot and it was instead absorbed in the head by McDonald’s teammate, cornerback E.J. Gaines, who’s head snapped back viciously and was down on the turn bleeding from the mouth before being carted off the field. The play wasn’t flagged, but should have been as it was a obvious attempt to make an illegal hit on the Giants star player. This is the brand of football the NFL is adamant about eliminating and the reason games are overwhelmed with so many unnecessary penalties week after week. McDonald should be fined, if not suspended for the play. Gained, fortunately, did not appear to suffer a long term injury on the play. If this is what Greg Williams is back to teaching, his time in the NFL should end permanently. Eliminate the source of the problem, so the need to so many cheap, incorrect flags can stop over correcting the issue.
The Giants would tack on another field goal, a 52 yard booming effort by Brown, and the Rams would score a late touchdown, on a 47 yard pass from Hill to receiver Chris Givens where Rodgers-Cromartie and Stevie Brown had an apparent breakdown in communication on the coverage. It came with four minutes left in the game, and accounted for the final points in the 37-27 Giants victory.
The Rams would block a late Brown field goal attempt when linebacker Daren Bates vaulted the Giants line, but their late rally effort was squelched when a bad snap to Hill was recovered by Wynn, who made the most of his increased snaps following Moore’s ejection.
Manning had one of his best games as a professional, completing 25 of 32 passes for 390 yards and 3 touchdown with no interceptions. His top target was again Beckham, who caught 8 or 12 passes for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. Randle also had a good day, catching all 6 passes intended for him, for 132 yards and a touchdown. The West Coast offense takes more than a full season to completely master, given the performance against a highly ranked defense that had given up just 12 points in their previous three games, combined, it is fair to conclude that the Giants players are starting to finally fully grasp it’s intricacies. McAdoo must absolutely return as offensive coordinator next season.
Other that the holding penalties – Beatty was called for four, but the fourth should have been assessed on center J.D. Walton – the offensive line played a solid game. Manning was sacked just once, and enjoyed solid protection throughout the game, allowing him to pick out receivers and complete his passes. Geoff Schwartz’s return next season will provide a boost, and one more piece is still needed to complete this puzzle, however, the Giants offense will be a force to be reckoned with in 2015. Off season efforts will need to focus on rebuilding the “broken” defense.
The three game winning streak, in which the Giants have played with passion, energy, and purpose, has demonstrated the players loyalty and commitment to Tom Coughlin. After their seven game losing streak that was punctuated with the loss to the Jaguars, it would have been very possible for this undermanned, discouraged team to mail in the remainder of the season. Instead, they have continued to prepare and play hard, and fought for themselves and their teammates yesterday, asking with their play on the field for Coughlin to return.
A week from today, we will know John Mara and Steve Tisch’s answer.