EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So this batty fourth quarter was unfolding Sunday night, with Colin Kaepernick tearing through the New York Giants' defense like it was tissue paper, and then Eli Manning doing the same to the San Francisco 49ers' defense in the final two minutes, and still so, so many eyes were riveted not to the field but to the sideline. For there on the sideline (and not the field) was Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants' star wide receiver, nursing an injured hamstring, trying to talk his way back into the game.
"There's no way you can't be part of a moment like that," Beckham would say later, after getting back on the field for the final four plays, after drawing a pass interference call on the play before Larry Donnell's game-winning touchdown catch, after crying in a postgame interview with NBC, after explaining that, no, he didn't injure the hamstring while dancing to celebrate his own touchdown catch late in the third quarter.
Yeah, Beckham had an interesting night, but doesn't he always? For good or ill, Beckham draws and hogs the spotlight. In less than three quarters' worth of action Sunday, he caught seven passes for 121 yards and a dazzling touchdown, and yet he drew just as much attention in the fourth quarter as he stretched and jogged and high-kneed around the Giants' bench area, his unmistakable golden frizz of a haircut bopping up and down the whole time.
Was he hurt? Could it really be the hamstring again? Did he hurt it doing that ridiculous touchdown dance? Is he done for the night? Out for weeks? I mean, it's the hamstring, and with him it's always the hamstring and it's always longer than you think and without him ... Oh wait, he's back in? Whew.
"I felt as if I let the team down by being out for a while," Beckham said.
He swears he hurt the hammie "five or six plays" before the touchdown catch. Said he felt it "bite" on him. But after that catch, and that dance, he got some attention on the sideline and sat out one whole Giants possession and most of a second. The 49ers had turned a 20-13 deficit into a 27-23 lead, and Manning was out there throwing to Shane Vereen and Myles White, and Beckham wouldn't shut up about going back in, so they put him back in.
"We were trying to win a game, he wanted to go, the medical people said let him go, I let him go," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We'll see what he's like [Monday]."
Oh, you can bet that the first question Coughlin gets on Monday's conference call will be about Beckham's health. And the first question the Philadelphia Eagles beat writers ask him on Wednesday's conference call too. And that all eyes will be on what Beckham is or isn't doing at the start of practice Thursday and Friday.
He's an attention-and-eyeball magnet of the highest order. His pregame warm-up routine is one of the NFL's most photographed weekly events. Entire stadiums gasp when they see him open behind a defender, or when he catches a ball in traffic and makes his move. The Giants went 13-19 the past two years but are preparing this week for their third prime-time game of the season in only the sixth week, and do you have to ask why?
It's all about Beckham, whether he's racing or rehabbing. Late Sunday night, he swore he'd be fine.
"It won't be long at all," he said. "I've just got to get in, do a little strengthening, rehab the next couple of days. I know we have some days to relax and rehab, so I'll be on it pretty heavy starting tonight, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, leading up to next week."
We don't know how any of that will go. We just know we'll be watching. Whatever Odell Beckham Jr.'s doing, we'll always be watching.