Both Odell Beckham and Josh Norman earned bad grades on Sunday
The Panthers-Giants showdown on Sunday put Carolina’s undefeated record on the line, and was a critical game for New York’s playoff hopes, but it was headlined by one of the best individual matchups of the year in Josh Norman vs. Odell Beckham Jr.
All too often, when you build up such a potentially explosive one-on-one matchup like this, it ends up being a disappointment, if indeed the two even spend that much time going up against each other one-on-one. That wasn’t the case in this one.
Beckham and Norman lined up across from each other on 56 snaps in this game, and the only times that didn’t really happen was when Beckham moved to the slot (18 snaps).
What was the outcome? Beckham was thrown at nine times overall (seven with Norman in coverage), catching six of them (four vs. Norman) for 76 yards (30), a TD (one) and two drops (two).
There was also the small matter of one of the most ill-disciplined and ill-tempered displays you will see between two players. This was a brawl that happened to feature some football. Punches were thrown, helmet-to-helmet hits were launched, and the pair combined for five unnecessary roughness penalties, two on Norman and three on Beckham, who was also flagged for offensive pass interference.
In the end, both players dragged the other down and we didn’t really see their best in the game. They each ended the game with negative PFF grades, though the biggest negatives for both players weren’t in receiving or coverage.
Norman emerged on the winning team and with a reasonable-looking performance statistically, despite getting beat for a score late, but he was torched deep on a couple of occasions earlier in the game only for Beckham to drop the ball or Giants quarterback Eli Manning to miss the throw.
On one of the first plays of the game, Norman found himself on an island against Beckham playing with outside leverage in bail technique. Beckham beat him badly off the line and broke inside to open space, only to drop a certain touchdown. This was a tone-setter for the game. With an opportunity to establish his dominance early, Beckham instead sparked the frustration that burned through his play the rest of the game.
Coming into the game, Beckham — the man known for one-handed and other highlight-reel catches — had just two drops on the season, and four in his entire NFL career. He had two in Sunday’s game alone, including that early one that should have been a deep score, and was visibly allowing his frustration with Norman to boil over throughout the game.
It appeared that Beckham had the beating of Norman for deep speed, but when things were closer to the line of scrimmage, Norman’s physicality leveled the playing field a little and he was able to hold his own, or even gain an advantage, all while constantly needling his opponent and pushing him further over the edge.
Both players flirted with crossing the line, if not marching straight past it, and Beckham certainly could have been ejected for throwing punches or his reckless helmet-to-helmet hit.
In the end, we got to see two of the best players at their respective positions in this season’s NFL go head-to-head for almost a full game, but instead of being treated to a high-level matchup, we witnessed both players dragging each other down into a mire of mediocre football and petty physical retribution. It remained compelling viewing, but this was a battle with no real winner.
Carolina won the game and remained undefeated, but neither Norman nor Beckham came out of this game with improved standing.