2017 NFL Wild Card Wrap: Stop trippin’ over player trips

WASHINGTON — There’s really no sugar coating it: The New York Giants choked in Green Bay Sunday.

This was a total stunner. The Giants entered Sunday having won five straight road playoff games, two of them right there on the Frozen Tundra. In fact, Eli Manning came into that game with just as many playoff wins at Lambeau Field as Aaron Rodgers (two each). Oh, and did I mention the vaunted Giants defense sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and held the entire Packer offense to just seven first-quarter yards en route to a 6-0 shut out in the game’s first 26 minutes?

Then it all fell apart. Rodgers had a 362-yard, 4-TD tantrum all over Big Blue, and Manning struggled in large part because his receivers weren’t helping him out, dropping four passes in the first quarter alone.

You know, the same Giants receivers that literally took their talents to South Beach for a little weekend jaunt.

I have yet to hear the Packers defense get credit for shutting down one of the best young receivers in the game, Odell Beckham Jr. Nobody seems to think Mother Nature’s below-freezing gift had anything to do with it.

Nope. It had to be the Giants receivers’ literal and figurative reenactment of a certain NSFW boat scene in Step Brothers.

OBJ wasn’t having such talk after the game. Aside from his assault of a couple of walls, he told the media, “It sounds typical to me … at the end of the day, I went through practice, had zero drops, zero missed assignments — there was nothing to connect seven days ago to [Sunday] and how we played and executed. There is just nothing in the world. It’s just not realistic.”

You know something? I actually agree.

Did Beckham and his mates ditch practice to take that boat ride? No. Were there reports that they overslept the next day and weren’t attentive in film study? No. So why isn’t the assumption that they simply played like crap against a red hot opponent in the midst of a seven-game win streak?

Here’s a great nugget from ESPN Stats & Information’s breakdown of Beckham’s performance: Not only was Sunday’s 28-yard game tied for the second-worst output of Beckham’s career, but all three of his multi-drop games have come when the kickoff temperature was below 41 degrees.

So basically, a smallish receiver from Louisiana can’t catch as well in the cold. Shocker.

Furthermore, we had no idea how Beckham would perform in his postseason debut. Victor Cruz and Manning might still be around from the last time the Giants made a playoff run, but OBJ was a freshman at LSU. This was easily the biggest game of Beckham’s pro career, and he has yet to prove he’s a big game performer at this level. That is the question he has to answer — not whether a boat trip messed his mind up for Sunday.

Was the excursion a bad look for a unit that didn’t perform well Sunday? Absolutely. Was it the direct cause? No.

This little episode has been widely compared to Tony Romo’s infamous trip to Cabo in 2007. You may recall those 13-3 Cowboys had an NFL-record 13 Pro Bowlers, a bye week, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even with the extra time to kill, Dallas lost their first playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants, a team still mad as hell they twice lost to the Cowboys in the regular season by a combined 21 points.

Had Romo left Jessica Simpson alone and stayed home over the bye week, Dallas probably still would have lost that game 1) because Romo still had a well-earned reputation for coming up small in big games and 2) any team with Wade Phillips as their head coach is doomed to fail in the postseason (as his career 1-6 playoff record would attest). Blaming playoff failure on what’s done in the player’s off time is a convenient-yet-shortsighted indictment that doesn’t account for actual on-field factors.

We hoot and holler when Beckham makes those amazing one handed catches. We marvel at the fact that nobody has ever caught more than his 288 balls in his first three seasons and his yardage and TD totals are almost equally off the charts. But we’ve seen in this league that being great in the regular season is no guarantee of postseason success, so Sunday was more of an example that being clutch (or emotionally mature) isn’t yet a part of OBJ’s makeup.

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Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on WTOP.com.

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