Odell Beckham Jr. will be fined, perhaps suspended, but should have been ejected

Odell Beckham Jr. can expect hefty fines and possibly more for his dirty play and extracurricular activities Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Perhaps the most surprising takeaway, however, was that referee Terry McAulay allowed the New York Giants star receiver to finish his team's 38-35 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The NFL question of the week: How in the world was Beckham not ejected long before he caught a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter? (In a statement Sunday night, the NFL said that disqualifications are a judgment call and said the actions of the "players involved" will be reviewed as per typical protocol.)

Beckham was penalized three times for unsportsmanlike conduct during a game-long battle with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman. McAulay's crew could have hit Beckham with a few more as well, especially in the context of an apparently forgotten point of emphasis directed at fighting this season.

There seems little doubt that Beckham is going to receive an NFL fine notification later this week. He can expect a hit of at least $11,576, the minimum fine for a first-offense unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. (A second offense runs players at least $23,152, provided a league review of the play upholds the original penalty.)

If the league deems Beckham's actions as fighting, the fines elevate to $28,940 for a first offense and $57,881 for a second. In addition, the league has the right to fine Beckham for plays that didn't draw flags. A suspension is possible, but the NFL typically employs it in these situations only when the player has demonstrated a pattern of behavior that goes unchanged after penalties and/or fines earlier in the season.

The best argument for a suspension is to make up for the time Beckham should have missed Sunday. Frankly, McAulay and his crew erred by allowing Beckham to finish the game. Most egregious was a third-quarter play when Beckham swiped Norman's head on a route, circled back and then targeted Norman with a helmet-to-helmet shot from behind.

In a video shown to all players this summer, the NFL emphasized that "flagrant conduct will result in ejection." The NFL rulebook defines "flagrant" as "extremely objectionable, conspicuous, unnecessary, avoidable or gratuitous." Given that definition, it's difficult to understand why McAulay didn't consider the third-quarter play flagrant and thus an ejection-worthy offense. Suspending Beckham would be an acknowledgement that he should have.

Let's not be too hard on McAulay, however. It's clear that the NFL has failed league-wide to follow up on its preseason emphasis.

In fact, there were only two ejections through the first 14 weeks of the season, well below the pace of 13 ejections in 2014. The NFL does not classify the cause of unsportsmanlike conduct, so we don't know whether penalized fighting has increased or decreased, but on the whole, there were 69 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called through the first 14 weeks of this season. During the same time period last season, there were 60.

Both of this season's ejections were in games officiated by referee Gene Steratore's crew, which disqualified Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright in Week 2 for slamming an opponent to the ground and Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward for punching an opponent in Week 10.

The NFL might argue that the lower ejection numbers suggest that the mere threat of it has decreased fighting. I don't have the numbers to support or disprove that theory. But the bottom line is that on Sunday, the league had a star player committing flagrant penalties -- the exact sort that the league claimed it would root out of the game this season -- and its officials did not use the most appropriate tool they have to combat it. So it goes.