After the 38-13 loss at Lambeau, it was easy to predict what the narrative would be surrounding the New York Giants, fair or unfair.
No one with brains is going to suggest that the Giants lost because of that party in South Beach. That’s idiotic. But there is a distinct difference between causation and correlation.
The boat trip didn’t cause the New York Giants to get blown out 38-13 at Lambeau, which knocked them out of the playoffs, but there is a correlation. It wasn’t just a mere coincidence that Odell Beckham Jr. had the second-worst game of his career after partying with Justin Bieber and Trey Songz.
— New York Giants (@Giants) January 9, 2017
After doling out credit to a Packers team that came in scorching hot with arguably the best quarterback in the league, Beckham addressed the elephant in the room.
“At the end of the day, I went through practice and had zero drops, zero missed assignments,” OBJ said after the game. “There is nothing that could connect seven days ago to today. The connections is not there, in my opinion. But everyone is going to have their own opinion.”
Once again, the Giants didn’t lose because of this. Rodgers wasn’t superb, throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns because the receivers were suffering from a week-long hangover. But it was a huge factor. It was simply an unwanted, unnecessary distraction.
This was a roster rife with a bunch of players devoid of playoff experience. And many of the receivers, who were on that boat, were on the cusp of playing in the biggest game of their lives. That, of course, with the exception of Victor Cruz, who played in the Super Bowl in 2011 and caught a touchdown pass. So, it’s not unfair to expect more from him, a veteran leader on this team.
So you do figure that with the absence of experience, there are a bunch of nerves. And another source of adversity comes in the form of playing on the road in a hostile environment in extremely cold weather. Having to answer questions and subsequently receiving criticism about the events that transpired on the day off probably wasn’t the easiest thing to deal with.
On the Giants opening drive, Eli Manning looked like “Playoff Eli,” connecting on throws to march his team down the field. Ultimately, the drive was stymied by an OBJ drop in Packers territory.
Easy drop by Odell on 3rd and 5. Gotta execute. Queue the Miami jokes. pic.twitter.com/naybLVZWfV
— TimbSZN Ethan (@EthanGSN) January 8, 2017
He had the ball in his hands and it would’ve been enough to move the chains. Instead, the Giants were forced to punt. On the ensuing possession, both Beckham and Sterling Shepard dropped wide open touchdowns that would’ve given the Giants some early momentum. Instead, they settled for field goals and the Packers eventually made them pay.
These are young players. They’re humans. We often over-dramatize the idea of being a professional athlete, giving them this superpower to be able to block any negative thoughts that would disrupt on-field focus. But that’s garbage. In the midst of the early struggles, Beckham knew if he failed to perform, he’d be crushed. The outcome would dictate the narrative. The boat party would become THE reason.
Because of this, he put an elevated level of pressure on himself to deliver. And unfortunately for him, he had tied a career-low for receiving yards in a game.
And how about Eli Manning? I’m inclined to believe that a two-time SB MVP didn’t love having to answer questions about a party his receivers attended. And yeah, he did make light of the situation by turning it into a joke. Of course, he did. When he publicly criticized Beckham earlier in the season, it led to negativity and a week-long distraction. Manning wasn’t interested in having that happen the week before the playoffs.
Here’s a QB who was looking for another run at a championship. Here’s a guy who isn’t demonstrative, but strictly business. A guy that, if we’re being honest, had a year he’d love to forget. One who missed the playoffs the last five years, including back-to-back 6-10 seasons that led to Tom Coughlin being fired and his general manager being put on the hot seat.
But through all of that, Manning had a chance to extinguish all the negativity surrounding the Giants. And an 11-5 season that culminated in the first playoff appearance since defeating the Patriots in the SB. And days before embarking on such a journey that required focus, determination, the enhanced playoff version of himself, this became a controversy that I’m sure he was thrilled with.
Let’s not make the mistake of disrespecting the Packers by attributing this loss to a poor decision by the Giants. Green Bay is a great team that could win the SB. But we can also assume the defense, led by Dom Capers, used this as bulletin board material. The Giants receivers didn’t take them as seriously: that was probably the message.
This wasn’t the reason, but it played a part in the embarrassing performance. Beckham has had games where he struggled with drops. But it feels like he always made up for it by making a big play to win the game. It happened against the Cowboys. The Giants offense struggled all year. This isn’t a revelation. But somehow, someway, a team many thought could beat the Patriots in the SB (which would’ve included wins over GB, DAL, and ATL/SEA) got its doors blown off by 25 points. Doesn’t feel like a coincidence.