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The Rumble in the Meadowlands

The New York Giants and the Carolina Panthers played a great game yesterday in the Meadowlands, a game for the ages that ended with a 38-35 victory by the unbeaten Panthers. After an amazing Giants comeback, the Panthers won on a classic two-minute drive led by Carolina's MVP Cam Newton, setting up the winning field goal as time expired.

Sadly, all that is being overshadowed by an uglier aspect of the game, the fighting between Giant wideout Odell Beckham Junior and Panther cornerback Josh Norman. The matchup between these two outstanding players had been hyped all week, and once the game began, they did indeed get into it... but not in the way that anyone wanted. Instead we got fighting during and between plays, shoves and slaps and punches and grabs and late hits, a body slam, an ankle grab, all climaxing in a helmet-to-helmet blow that many believe should have led to an ejection. The Beckham/ Norman stuff dominated last night's postgame shows, and was still the number one discussion this morning.

There is no need for me to repeat what everyone else is saying. A lot of the commentators were calling for Odell Beckham to be suspended for his actions during the game, and in particular for that helmet-to-helmet hit. This afternoon they got what they wanted. The NFL has suspended Beckham for one game. (He will likely appeal the suspension. Everyone appeals their suspensions).

I am not going to argue with that. The NFL had good reason to outlaw helmet-to-helmet hits. Using the helmet as a weapon is dangerous. It can lead to concussions, and in some cases to far worse injuries. Beckham should not have done that. The refs probably should have ejected him for that. (He did draw a 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, one of three he received for the night). Many commentators said that Beckham "lost it" during the first half of the Panthers game, and they are not wrong. He let his temper, get the best of him. He lost control. Beckham had no catches in the first half of the game (the first time that has ever happened to him), but he must have been in a dozen scuffles with Norman. It hurt his team -- the three penalties alone cost the Giants 45 yards, not to mention that all this made their most dangerous receiver a non-factor. It was stupid. He should have known better. He should have controlled himself.

So I am not defending Odell Beckham Junior. Can't. Won't. The helmet-to-helmet hit, in particular, was indefensible. Much as I hate to say it, he should have been expelled yesterday, and the one-game suspension is justified.

BUT...

Something else needs to be said as well.

JOSH NORMAN STARTED IT.

ODB let himself be provoked, and that's bad. But it was Norman who initiated the ugliness, and we should not lose sight of that. He is not the innocent victim here, and his postgame comments reek of hypocrisy. ODB went way too far, agreed, but the dirty stuff began with Norman.

On the fourth play of the game, Beckham blew past Norman downfield, and Eli Manning hit him in stride for what would have been a 52-yard TD... if the ball had not bounced off Odell's hands. "My bad," ODB gestured after the play, taking responsibilty for the error. Some talking heads said afterwards that it was that drop that made Beckham so angry and led to what followed.

But that's wrong. It was Norman who most impacted by that pass, not Beckham. After a week of hype about this great match-up, he had allowed ODB to burn him on the first series for what would have been a humiliating touchdown. Plainly, that near miss pissed him off... because ON THE VERY NEXT PLAY, he grabbed ODB and bodyslammed him to the ground. There was no flag, even though a ref was right on top of them. (Picking up a player and slamming him to the ground is also against NFL rules). A couple plays later, Norman fouled ODB again, running into his back and knocking him down. That time ODB struck back and blows were exchanged. But Norman's came first.

But don't take my word for it. Here's the two plays in question.



There were numerous other exchanges between the two players after that. In some cases both of them were in the wrong, shoving and slapping each other. In others, Beckham was to blame, as when he grabbed Norman's ankle after making his first catch of the day. But all these, it has to be noted, came well AFTER Norman started the fighting with these two early plays.

This morning on FIRST TAKE Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless agreed that Beckham should be suspended for his actions yesterday. I can't disagree. But Bayless also said that the officiating crew should also be suspended, and boy, do I agree with that. Most of this ugliness could have been avoided with stronger officiating. Yes, Beckham should have been ejected for the helmet-to-helmet hit. (Instead he and Norman were both given unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, offsetting). But that was way too late.

Norman should have been given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for bodyslamming Odell to the ground in the fifth play of the game, as seen above. The ref was right there, and did nothing. Norman should have been given a second penalty when he ran into Odell in the second play on the clip; in that case, ODB should also have been penalized, for his reaction. But no penalties were called on either player in that case.

The officials could have nipped this one in the bud. A few fifteen yarders on Norman early on, and he might have cleaned up his act, and in which case ODB might not have felt the need to take matters into his own hands. But when the refs turned a blind eye to Norman's dirty play...

There is NO excuse for the helmet-to-helmet hit, I will say again. But let's take a look at that one too... and please, watch the entire clip, especially the tight angle on Norman and ODB at the end...



All the sports shows have been showing the helmet-to-helmet blow. Very few have shown what went before it. Beckham and Norman are well away from the action when the play begins. ODB is running his route, and Norman is covering him, when it becomes clear the play is a run, not a pass. As Beckham streaks past, Norman breaks off coverage and moves toward the runner... but not before he gives Beckham a SLAP in the back of the head as he flies by. Completely unprovoked, a blindside blow to the head, not even to break up a play or a pass (no ball is the air)... just a little extra bit of gratuitous nastiness. After which ODB loses it, and comes streaking after Norman to deliver the helmet hit that has gotten him suspended.

Yes, he went way too far in retaliation. But make no mistake, it WAS retaliation. Even on this play, Norman started it.

No one covered themselves with glory yesterday at the Meadowlands (except Cam Newton and Eli Manning). Tom Coughlin should have pulled Odell and sat him down for a while, beyond a doubt. And Ron Rivera should have pulled Norman and sat HIM down. The refs could have ejected ODB, and maybe they should have ejected Norman too. They should CERTAINLY have flagged Norman for the initial inciting incidents. Both players deserve blame for their actions, and they should both get fined.

But it must be said, Odell displayed far more class in his postgame interview than Norman did in his. "The second man always gets caught," ODB said. Never was that more true than yesterday, in the Meadowlands. Norman, meanwhile, was saying that fans would see "what kind of player" ODB was. Norman needs to look in the mirror; the world saw what kind of player he was too.

((It has also come out that before the game some of the Panthers were taunting Beckham with gay slurs and homophobic insults. We're also hearing some strange stories about baseball bats. C'mon, Panthers. You're a great team, you're 14-0, you may be on your way to a Super Bowl. Take a lesson from your quarterback, and show a little class.))

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Comments

( 67 comments )
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awesomeworkman
Dec. 22nd, 2015 03:45 am (UTC)
Have to disagree.
Both of those plays OBJ is clearly throwing shots far before Norman retaliated. Beckham acted like a child throwing a tantrum the entire game.

I'd put this more on the referees. They should have taken control from the first incident and the fact that they let it go an additional 3 quarters is mind boggling.
RRMcFreely
Dec. 22nd, 2015 03:57 am (UTC)
Hello Homer Simpson
I'm not sure how you would call those two plays on Norman penalties. They were hand fighting and beckham went into Norman's chest. While Norman did grab him, beckham went down easier than a working girl in Flea Bottom. The second one, Norman was running and looked back while Beckham stopped and hit him with the crown of his helmet in Norman's chin. Stop defending that thug Beckham. Don't think he is a thug? Just look at the fighting and his antics after he scored a touchdown. The guy is a clown and should probably be in jail instead of the NFL
grrm
Dec. 22nd, 2015 08:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Hello Homer Simpson
I think Norman is the thug.

He proved that in his postgame comments.
3EyedRevan
Dec. 22nd, 2015 04:32 am (UTC)
Well said GRRM
Spot on sir. The NFL can stop this foolishness at any time. There is no excuse for the weekly taunting displayed by the Panthers. The NFL sadly thinks they are wrestling - love them or hate them, just watch.

As for Norman, it's a sad day when a NFL DB talks trash all week then cries to the media when he gets hit. Sounds like a typical bully to me.

Edited at 2015-12-22 04:39 am (UTC)
Lauren Temmler
Dec. 22nd, 2015 04:44 am (UTC)
Totally Agree
I love the idea that the NFL would suspend the officiating crew. Reading that they "warned' the coaches is BS. If they had a problem then flag it.

So fun having my favorite writer root for my favorite team. :)
cyborgturkey
Dec. 22nd, 2015 04:46 am (UTC)
Officials
The NFL has announced plans to counteract all this hellaciously bad officiating by letting league officials at the home office be the "eye in the sky" and overrule the refs on the field during the game. Hopefully this will be the last season of this nonsense.
vtforpedro
Dec. 22nd, 2015 05:33 am (UTC)
I don't know much about football at all, I've only watched two games in as many years. But I did watch the above clips this morning and I had the two mistaken for a moment - I thought it was Norman that was the aggressor until I read it was ODB who got the suspension and had to rewatch the clips. I realized why after the helmet-to-helmet blow but honestly, they were both playing stupid. So yeah, my first impression was Norman causing the unnecessary roughness but wow ODB went waaay overboard. Self-control, guys.
OberynMattell
Dec. 22nd, 2015 05:50 am (UTC)
I hear what you're saying George about Norman starting it, but Beckham has been acting like this all season. Norman was trying to bait him because he knew Beckham would lose his cool, and that's exactly what happened. I don't see Norman getting into fights with other receivers on a weekly basis, yet I see Beckham flipping out all the time. He was selfish, he didn't care if his retaliation cost the Giants in penalties, it didn't matter, he needed to get revenge. He has some MAJOR growing up to do.

And you mention Norman at fault, and the officiating at fault, but you forgot the biggest one: Tom Coughlin. Ridiculous that Beckham is still out of control like this in a game this important this late in the season. The Giants coaching staff should've gotten his behavior under control well before this. The loss and Beckham's behavior were probably the nail in the coffin for Coughlin as the Giants coach.

Edited at 2015-12-22 05:51 am (UTC)
tvo8307
Dec. 23rd, 2015 02:24 pm (UTC)
Uhhh
Josh Norman got into a fight with Cam Newton earlier in the year. His own quarterback. And Panthers fans are acting like they've never seen behavior like this before. Oh how quickly they forget their best reciever in team history was Steve Smith, imo the most notorious hothead, diva WR ever. He was constantly starting shit with everyone. OBJ's actions are not justified, but the Panthers as a whole shouldn't be exempt from criticism, the baseball bat stuff is stupid.
wethebeings
Dec. 22nd, 2015 06:13 am (UTC)
watch the second clip again
Being a panthers fan I am aware of my own biases, but I do believe there is one thing missing in your interpretation of the second video. That "SLAP" to the back of the head was by no means unprovoked. I slowed the video down and watched it about 8 or 9 times to be sure, but Beckham did what he had been doing a lot during the game, slapping (or in this case trying to slap) Josh's face mask. To be clear Odell shoves his hand straight for Norman's face and Josh deflects it by hitting Beckham on the back of he helmet. You can't blame a guy for trying to protect his face, especially after the numerous face slaps from earlier in the game.
I agree that Josh did in fact start the fighting between the two, but there's a big difference between dropping a guy on the ground and targeting a guy's head. I've been a fan of Beckham since he came into the league and he is obviously a great player, but I would expect a guy of that caliber talent to be able to rise above, "he started it."
BryndenBFish
Dec. 22nd, 2015 06:14 am (UTC)
It all goes back and back...
One of my takeaways from ASOIAF (I swear this will relate - bear with me!) is that the cyclical nature of vengeance begats more vengeance, more violence. Whether it's the story of the Brackens and Blackwoods as related by Hoster Blackwood or Tyrion's "It all goes back and back, Tyrion thought, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads," vengeance never makes things right. It only makes it worse and worse as time progresses.

Odell Beckham Jr. was egged on by Josh Norman absolutely, no doubt. The game was incredibly personal to them, and Norman went out of his way to try to tarnish Beckham's good reputation and amazing on-field play. Still... Odell was baited by Norman and allowed himself to be overcome with "getting him back." That type of on-field antics by both makes for cyclical "Need to respond to this or I'll look bad" play from both. Both should be suspended. Both should receive opprobrium for their behavior. The problem is that the NFL applies heavy-handed suspensions (when it's not excusing criminal or abusive players and their off-field performances or laying down light punishments against these same players... I digress)

Basically, vengeance is bad. Both should be suspended. Take a page from ASOIAF (or y'know basic good ethics and public conduct) and have fun. Also, Roger Goodell should be removed by his board.

Edited at 2015-12-22 06:32 am (UTC)
Tom Hanlon
Dec. 22nd, 2015 06:17 am (UTC)
I totally agree. The refs let this game get totally out of hand early. Three wrongs don't make a right either, and this isn't the sandlot, it's the NFL. Norman deserves a fine too and probably a one game suspension for that unpenalized body slam. Sure they can appeal but the one-game suspension is certainly reasonable, IF the NFL is serious about safety and sportsmanship. I also think the NFL should be reviewing every game afterwards and have a 72 hour window to issue player fines etc. for safety violations even if no flag was thrown at the time. Yet again the NFL's idea of managing the product is a knee-jerk reaction to the media spotlight. Bad form all around.
lachaim
Dec. 22nd, 2015 07:04 am (UTC)
For the record, I am neither a Panthers nor a Giants fan (nor hater), so feel I am pretty neutral toward the situation, all things considered. I watched most of the first half of the game and based on what was being shown live on TV at the time, felt that from what I was seeing, it was almost entirely Beckham acting out. I was also shocked the refs weren't stepping in earlier to stop things. The video evidence you provide...not only is it not a smoking gun, it actually just confirms my initial impressions. I have to respectfully disagree with your interpretation of the video.

The second play in particular, where "Norman runs into Beckham," you get wrong. I've watched that over two dozen times now. Beckham is running a bit ahead of Norman, basically open in a tight window, and the ball isn't thrown. Beckham slows down and as Norman catches up, Beckham plants his feet to reverse his momentum, ducks his shoulder and fires himself (more or less helmet first), back into Norman, deliberately putting his helmet into Norman's chin. If anything this is shades of the more obvious cheap shot that came later in the game and Beckham clearly should have drawn a penalty for this play. Norman did not run into Beckham, not even close.

In the first instance, where Norman threw Beckham to the ground, there is no question he did that and should have received a penalty. What's interesting is even on that play it looks like the initial contact was initiated by Beckham. Right at the start of the clip you link to, Beckham appears to strike Norman in the head with his hand (it might hit his shoulder, but I think it's a shot to the face). Whether this was an intentional shot to the head or more of a late mini-pushoff is not clear. WR's do this all the time and it rarely gets called (although strictly speaking its illegal hands to the face...unless they have the ball in which case its just a stiff-arm), so by itself it wouldn't necessarily cause a ruckus. After this shot to the head, they both pause for a second and then more or less come at each other pushing and shoving. Beckham comes is quick and straight with a push at the chest, Norman comes in arms wide to grab Beckham in more of a bear hug, which is how he ends up eventually tossing him to the ground. It's not much of a toss, and Beckham may have acted it up a bit (Beckham basically goes limp and lets himself be dropped) (calling it a "Body Slam" is overselling it a bit). Still likely should have been a penalty on Norman, but again, he wasn't clearly the instigator in the interaction (unless something happens prior to the clip, which is not impossible). He may be the only one deserving of a penalty on this play, but he was still retaliating rather than starting.

I like ODB, but unless there were other things going on not in those video clips, he still looks like the aggressor, even from the very start. Sorry.
grrm
Dec. 22nd, 2015 08:43 pm (UTC)
If you are driving your car and you stop and slow down and the car behind you re-ends you, he is at fault. Cops and insurance companies speak as one on that. He can try to excuse it by saying you stopped too suddenly or unexpectedly or whatever, but if the front of his car crashes into the rear of yours, he gets the blame.

Same on a football field. A receiver has the right to break off his route. That does not give the defensive back the right to crash into him and knock him down.

And you make "Beckham goes limp" sound like a criticism. That creates a no-win situation. So ODB is to blame if he fights back when shoved, slapped, or hit, and he's also to blame if he goes limp and passive and spreads his arms.

Sorry, my eyes see what they see, and they see Norman playing dirty -- or at least rough -- from the first whistle.
(no subject) - hllywdnghts - Dec. 23rd, 2015 12:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fieldyskins - Dec. 23rd, 2015 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
William Rogers
Dec. 22nd, 2015 07:16 am (UTC)
What???
You really should take those rose colored glasses off and rewatch the second clip again.. like REALLY watch it.. norman did not hit him in the head and you left out ODB made contact first by pushing his hand in his face palm open to which norman swung and hit his shoulder turning around.. come on george you know what ODB could have seriously injured norman all because someone supposedly called him gay or pointed a baseball bat at him?? sounds like made up junk to me.
grrm
Dec. 22nd, 2015 08:44 pm (UTC)
Re: What???
Except it is all on film, so it can hardly be "made up junk."

The head slap is right there. I've watched it a dozen times in slow motion.
RE: Re: What??? - Josh Lothridge - Dec. 23rd, 2015 02:22 am (UTC) - Expand
TehBuLLGo
Dec. 22nd, 2015 07:53 am (UTC)
ODB?
Ol Dirty Bastard most certainly didn't play. RIP.
OBJ on the other hand deserved to be tossed after the 2nd penalty.
crunchblaster
Dec. 22nd, 2015 07:53 am (UTC)
What Norman did deserved flags. What OBJ did deserved an arrest. The man launched himself into the head of another player with clear intent to seriously injure him. In my view that makes Norman's comments about the sort of human being OBJ is very justified. You can be chippy. You can be physical. You can even cross the line into committing personal fouls, in the spirit of the game. It was a fun game even when they were throwing punches back and forth. But when you attempt to end a man's career, potentially his life, by launching yourself into his temple, then you don't deserve articles in your defense.

It's worth noting, as well, that the baseball bat thing has been a Panthers tradition this year, and was completely unrelated to OBJ. Their secondary have carried them during warm ups for several weeks now, in solidarity with their injured player Bene Benwikere.

Edited at 2015-12-22 08:00 am (UTC)
gonzo21
Dec. 22nd, 2015 11:26 am (UTC)
I wonder if there is an argument, with all the concussion problems, for a step change in how the game is played. Take away a lot of the body armour, particularly the helmets, and replace them with the padded caps some of the players wear in Rugby. Reduce the incentive players have to lead with their heads all the time. Less thinking of their bodies as weapons.
grrm
Dec. 22nd, 2015 09:07 pm (UTC)
A return to leather caps has been proposed.

It would mean a slower and less violent game. Probably healthier, but I fear it would also make the game less popular, and the league will not want that.
(no subject) - gonzo21 - Dec. 22nd, 2015 09:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
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