GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- Odell Beckham Jr. wants desperately to be considered the biggest of big-time performers. He insists on being in the spotlight. He craves everyone's attention.
That's why it was so shocking -- disappointing, really -- that on the biggest stage of his life, Beckham came up so small.
There's no other way to describe what he did and did not do in the Giants' 38-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Beckham's first playoff game. He caught just four passes for 28 yards despite being targeted 11 times. He dropped four passes -- some easy, some not so easy, but all catchable for an elite receiver -- including a big third-down pass on the opening drive and a pass in the end zone one drive later.
On the field he was basically invisible. Off the field, though, he made sure to leave his mark by, among other things, punching a hole in a Lambeau Field wall.
Of course, all week long Beckham was making off-field noise, which is part of the problem. It's not that his ill-conceived trip to Miami with his fellow receivers on Monday directly impacted this game. He didn't drop passes because he posed shirtless on a boat with some musicians or went clubbing with Justin Bieber. There's no direct line to this game from his odd locker room show on Thursday when he donned a wrestler's mask and began mimicking wrestling moves for the cameras. And it had nothing to do with him and several teammates running shirtless on the field before the game with the windchill slightly below zero.
But in doing all that -- doing everything he possibly could to make himself the center of attention, to give people a reason to criticize and doubt him -- he absolutely needed to come up big when it mattered. When he didn't, it became fair game, and reasonable, to question his focus.
Beckham strongly disagreed.
"It sounds typical to me," Beckham said. "But at the end of the day I went through practice, had zero drops, zero missed assignments. There was nothing that could connect [the Miami trip] seven days ago to today and how we came out and played and executed. There's just nothing in the world. That's not realistic.
"I think it did a great job of creating distractions for us, and it's unfortunate. That's just the way the world is."
That said, who Beckham misses the central point: Who created those distractions? It was his choice to go to Miami, along with Victor Cruz, Sterling Shepard and Roger Lewis. It was his choice to share it on social media. He put on the wrestling show knowing cameras were surrounding him. He was the first one to run on the field shirtless. He even went back inside to get teammates to join him.
It's all harmless taken alone. Taken together, it screams "Look at me!" And that's' fine, except that when the world was looking on Sunday, Beckham quite literally dropped the ball.
"We all knew if he had a bad game or if we lost the game or if he dropped a pass it was going to come back to him,'' linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "He didn't have the game he wanted to have, I know that for sure with a couple dropped passes. I'm pretty sure you guys are going to get after him a little bit, and I guess that comes with the territory.
"But I don't question his focus. I don't question his loyalty to the team, either. The guy was so fired up before the game he was emotional about it. It might have been too much for him."
That, in fact, is exactly what it looked like -- i.e., the whole thing was too big for Beckham. This kid who took the NFL by storm, rocketed to celebrity status and did things that few receivers have ever even come close to doing in his first three NFL seasons, looked all week like he didn't know how to handle this moment. He seemed surprised and even bothered that anyone would question his trip to Miami, even as he seemed to understand the stir he was creating.
"It did a great job in putting it in people's mind that, 'OK, now if the Giants lose it's because you went to Miami,'" Beckham said. "It doesn't really connect to me. I went through the entire week of practice fully locked in. You could ask anybody. I definitely didn't expect the game to go this way today."
In hindsight, though, maybe it wasn't such a surprise. The beauty of the Giants' two most recent Super Bowl champions is that they were clearly locked in once the postseason started. They embodied the catchy slogans Tom Coughlin gave them -- "Talk is cheap" in 2007 and "Finish" in 2011 -- and wouldn't let anything distract them from the task at hand.
They watched other teams party and trash talk -- remember Tony Romo's trip to Cabo in 2007, or Jerry Jones leaving tickets to the NFC championship on his players' stools -- and went about their business, knowing they had their distracted opponents exactly where they wanted them. Led by Beckham, this young Giants team did the exact opposite. They seemed to enjoy it all a little too much.
Granted, Beckham is only 24 and this was his first taste of the playoffs. And the Giants, likely bringing back most of their key players next season, are more likely than not to be back for more. Beckham kept calling this game "a learning experience." He needs to learn from the whole experience, including his actions during the week, too.
Perhaps he was a little too fired up for his first act on the NFL's big stage. His postgame antics certainly suggest that. Some of his teammates said he was inconsolable in the locker room. He was banging his head against a door in frustration, ESPN reported. He punched that wall and allegedly cursed at a member of the Lambeau Field staff, according to the New York Post.
He's passionate and he cares and all that is great, but that can't be uncontrollable. Next time he and the Giants are here, he needs to be more even-keeled, more focused on football and unwilling to create those "distractions" he admitted were "unfortunate."
Maybe then he'll come up big in a really big moment. Because that's what big-time players are supposed to do.