Welcome to your Monday roundup of the best and worst of NFL Sunday — by which we mean the single very best thing and single very worst thing. Because the stuff in the middle doesn’t matter, really.
THE BEST OF NFL SUNDAY: On a day when more non-sporting eyes were tuning into the NFL than any time in recent memory, Odell Beckham Jr. managed to display everything the league has to offer in one package.
If casual fans — or even just average citizens wanting to see how players would respond to the U.S. President’s call for the “sons of bitches” to be fired if they knelt for the national anthem — happened to be surfing through Sunday’s games, looking for eye-catching feats of athleticism, fiercely charismatic displays of personality, heart-pounding comebacks or quietly inspiring political acts, they would have found all four within about five minutes of game time, courtesy solely of the receiver who is always capable of being the best thing about any game he’s in.
Exhibit A: Beckham’s first touchdown grab, and celebration, to bring the otherwise scoreless Giants within a touchdown of the Eagles: It’s a master class in casually slipping a defender, tracking a back-shoulder throw, navigating the sideline and finishing with pinpoint body control… followed of course by pretending to be a dog urinating on the field and taking a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for your trouble.
Because why, Odell?
“I’m a dog,” he said after the game. “So, I acted like a dog.”
Exhibit B: If Beckham’s first touchdown is the sort of athletic feat football fans have come to expect from the better NFL wide receivers, his second was one that we’d expect from only him. If you blurred everything about the highlight except the one hand and the football, and asked any coach to guess the player, it would likely be near-unanimous.
And his celebration? A clenched fist raised towards the crowd, perhaps the original form of athlete protest.
Because why, Odell?
“Did it look like it [meant something]?” he answered later. “Then it might have meant something.”
Two TDs in about five minutes. The game was tied, the Eagles were stunned, Beckham’s point was made.
Philadelphia may have prevailed on a last-second field goal, but Beckham’s performance was everything that makes football, done properly, the most compelling sport on television.
THE WORST THING ABOUT NFL SUNDAY: You mean, aside from the fact that what originally began as a quiet protest against racial injustice in America had to become, out of necessity, a protest defending freedom of speech, after that freedom was publicly attacked by a sitting president? Ugh.
Well, the referees took a game-winning touchdown catch away from Detroit Lions receiver Golden Tate after a review revealed he may have actually made the catch despite being interfered with on the play. So, there’s that, too.
It’s fair enough, I suppose, to point out that the play in question was a matter of inches, or even a fraction of just one of them, so it’s a lot to expect even HD cameras to allow the zebras to correctly assess every marginal play.
But personally, I would tend to err on the side of letting thrilling, last-second, game-winning touchdowns that were ruled as such on the field stand, rather than take them away from a rabid home crowd.
Also, had the refs made the call on the field that the play was not a touchdown, the Lions might have had another shot at the end zone. The overturned TD was not a fourth-down play, and there were still eight seconds left on the clock.
Instead, because the review stopped the running clock, a 10-second runoff ended the game without another play. Hard to think of a worse way to end what had been the game of the day between two undefeated teams.