NFL round-up: Panthers’ defence uncovers Odell Beckham’s dark side

New York Giants wide receiver involved in a number of incidents with Josh Norman

Odell Beckham Jr wowed fans last year as he compiled a record-setting rookie season despite having missed the off-season and the first four games of the regular season with a hamstring injury. Appreciation for his brilliance increased as his speed, elusiveness and penchant for photogenic one-handed grabs allowed him to stitch together six consecutive 100-yard receiving games, two shy of the NFL record set by Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions in 2012.

But after Beckham became frustrated early in Sunday’s game against the undefeated Carolina Panthers, he unveiled a darker side of his personality that most likely disturbed some fans and led several members of the Panthers to call for the league to suspend him.

Carolina cornerback Josh Norman, whose suffocating coverage appeared to cause Beckham to unravel, was among those who appealed to the league to discipline Beckham after the Panthers escaped with a 38-35 victory at MetLife Stadium that kept their perfect run intact at 14-0.

Cam Newton threw for five touchdowns as the Panthers established a 28-point lead, but the Giants battled back to level with 1:46 remaining.

Graham Gano’s 43-yard field goal at the death dashed New York’s hopes, though, as Carolina moved to 14-0 on the back of a 38-35 win.

“When they put it on film and the league office takes a real look at it, we’ll see what they can do, because players like that don’t belong in the game,” Norman said. “I mean, it’s ridiculous. I understand you want to play, but let’s play within the confines of the league rules. Don’t do all that extra stuff. I know you get a little rattled. That’s cool. But if that’s not your game, don’t play somebody else’s game. You’re not going to win.

“The guy took a shot at me I don’t know how many times. To take a shot at a guy’s head, I mean, come on now. That’s kind of going a little bit too far.”

Beckham’s frustration grew visibly when he was held without a first-half catch for the first time in his career. He dropped two passes, one on a fly pattern that almost certainly would have resulted in a touchdown on the Giants’ opening series.

With Carolina holding a 21-7 half-time advantage, Norman, a fifth-round draft choice who has blossomed into perhaps the league’s finest cornerback in his fourth season, became more conscious of guarding against the deep ball. Beckham made six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, ending his bid for Johnson’s mark. His biggest play occurred when he got half a step on Norman – his adversary accused him of pushing off – and made a 14-yard grab in the left corner of the end zone with one minute 46 seconds left to cap the Giants’ comeback from a 35-7 hole to even the score at 35-35.

Perhaps the ugliest moment during what Carolina coach Ron Rivera called "a very crazy football game" was when Beckham launched himself at Norman's head. In another, with the Giants trailing, 35-7, and facing fourth-and-two at the Panthers' 45-yard line late in the third quarter, Beckham made a sliding five-yard grab only to undo that critical catch when he grabbed Norman by the foot to trip him, resulting in a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Two plays after that, as tempers flared, Beckham and Norman drew offsetting unnecessary-roughness penalties. Another two plays later, Norman was whistled for the same infraction. In all, Beckham was charged with three personal fouls.

Although he expressed regret, he suggested that he had not been the aggressor.

“You never want to hurt your team like that,” he said. “I have learned it all throughout my life, you know, always the second man gets called.”

Beckham said he had never been concerned that he might be ejected.

“We are out there playing football,” he said. “We are competing. You are a competitor. I’m a competitor. We are always going to go at it. Anybody who has played sports, you are competitive, and you are going to go as hard as you can.”

Still, Cortland Finnegan, another Carolina defensive back, joined Norman in calling for league action. “Some of the stuff he was doing is not football related,” he said. “He swung multiple times.”

The New England Patriots continued to lead the way in the AFC thanks to a 33-16 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns, with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was forced out of the game with a knee injury in the first half.

Teddy Bridgewater threw a career-high four touchdowns to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 38-17 win over the Chicago Bears.

The Kansas City Chiefs made it eight wins in a row with a 34-14 success over the the Baltimore Ravens, while the Houston Texans won 16-10 over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Atlanta Falcons snapped a six-game losing streak with a 23-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Washington Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills 35-25 thanks to Kirk Cousins's four touchdown passes.

The Seattle Seahawks nailed down a play-off place for a fourth consecutive season, ruthlessly securing a 30-13 win against the Cleveland Browns.

Russell Wilson launched three touchdown passes, with Doug Baldwin twice the beneficiary and Tyler Lockett also scoring.

Wilson, with another spectacular performance, became the first quarterback in NFL history to make three or more touchdown passes and no interceptions in five straight games, the league said.

The Green Bay Packers are bound for the post-season too, in their case for a seventh successive time, and marked their achievement with a 30-20 win against an Oakland Raiders side who cannot now reach the play-offs.

Also earning a play-off slot were the Cincinnati Bengals, thanks to a 24-14 victory against the San Francisco 49ers in which Jeremy Hill scored a pair of touchdowns.

Danny Woodhead went two better than that with four touchdowns for the San Diego Chargers in a 30-14 success against the Miami Dolphins at Qualcomm Stadium, which may have staged its last NFL game.

Chargers chairman Dean Spanos has plans to take the franchise to Los Angeles, and a shared home with the Oakland Raiders.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, with designs on a post-season wild card, beat the Denver Broncos 34-27 behind 380 passing yards from Ben Roethlisberger and a pair of touchdowns from Antonio Brown.

(New York Times service)