EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- That celebration Odell Beckham Jr. had planned for his first score of the season has been put on ice. He is waiting, a bit longer than expected, for that elusive touchdown.
It’s approaching unchartered territory heading into Week 5. Beckham has never gone more than four consecutive games in a single season without reaching the end zone. This will be a career-worst stretch if he fails to score a touchdown for the fifth straight game Sunday when the Giants play the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.
Beckham didn’t score a touchdown the first four games of the 2016 season. He finally reached the end zone in Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers that year, then twice the following week against the Baltimore Ravens. It was also that game against the Ravens when he had over 200 yards receiving in the second half and saved the Giants' season with a 75-yard touchdown on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter.
Boy, could the Giants use some sort of repeat performance. They finished that season 11-5. Beckham ended with 10 touchdown receptions.
History says the celebrations are coming for the Giants and their star wide receiver. This is a player who scored the game-winning touchdown in his first career game and came into this season averaging an NFL-best .81 touchdown grabs per game since entering the league in 2014.
Is this the week when order is restored?
“I don’t know,” Beckham said on Thursday. “You seem more concerned about the end zone than me.”
His touchdown drought is a product of the offense, its lack of success and opportunities. Beckham has one catch for minus-2 yards on four red zone targets in four games. That puts him well behind his red zone pace from 2014-16, when he averaged 23 targets, 13 catches and seven touchdowns on plays inside the opposition's 2-yard line.
Quarterback Eli Manning hasn’t been able to get the ball to Beckham near or in the end zone. He missed Beckham on a play deep down the seam in the opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He missed him on a pair of plays in Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints that could've gone for substantial gains.
The Giants’ inability to get the ball downfield this season -- not just to Beckham -- has been a problem. Manning has hit on only 3 of 12 passes of 20-plus yards. Two of those three were to Beckham in the opener. They haven't connected since.
It is becoming harder and harder for Beckham to produce those trademark flashes of brilliance that littered the previous four seasons. His average depth of target is 9.98 yards this season, the lowest of his career according to ESPN Stats & Information.
There are still plays to be made downfield. There have been times Beckham has been open or in one-on-one matchups, but for reasons that also stretch beyond the quarterback -- whether it be pressure allowed by the offensive line or situation -- those plays are being left on the field.
“They’re there, they’re not there, it’s just a matter of doing it,” Beckham said. “There’s only so much ... they’re there, they’re not there. I don’t know how to answer that. There’s opportunities, there’s not opportunities. It’s just about taking advantage of the opportunities that are there.”
Beckham and the Giants have done an admirable job of staying positive despite failing to reach 20 points in three of their four games. Beckham laughed Wednesday when the word "frustration" was used in multiple questions. He didn't think that was the appropriate choice of words.
The three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver still leads the Giants with 31 receptions for 331 yards. His 45 targets are eighth-most in the NFL.
But Manning and the Giants aren’t going to force it to him downfield or in the end zone. This much is clear by their early-season actions and rhetoric.
“I think [the touchdown] just comes in a natural play of the game. I don’t think if we try to start forcing the ball to get anybody touchdowns, I think you run into some risky business, so to speak,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “I think that he’s very talented. He’s going to get the ball. He’s going to get us in the end zone. He’s going to get in the end zone."
Beckham’s touchdown totals his first three years were 12-13-10. He had three in four games last season.
It was never easy. He was always the center of attention for the opposing defense. Beckham has done it through constant double-teams and against zone defenses protecting against him from making big plays.
“I do see where people most certainly are paying attention to where Odell Beckham is lined up, that’s for doggone sure,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “That makes a lot of sense to me.”
This is nothing new, though. Beckham has been seeing this since midway through his rookie season. It never affected his ability to get in the end zone before, and shouldn't affect it now.
Soon enough he’ll be dancing in the end zone.