Norman-Beckham II most certainly lived up to the hype and was just one side story in a raucous 29-27 Redskins win at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon that included players screaming at coaches, ejections and wild fake punts.
How do we neatly summarize chaos? Let's give it a shot:
1. Jay Gruden needed this one, and we could tell. What other coach has his punter -- Tress Way -- bomb his first NFL pass on a fourth-and-12 near midfield with the team trailing by one in the third quarter? Some context: Earlier in the week reports of discord in the locker room began to boil over. The team held a players-only meeting this weekend to air grievances and, even early on Sunday it seemed not everyone was on the same page. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry was seen jawing with his own player, veteran defensive tackle Chris Baker, on the sidelines during the game. This win was by no means beautiful. Gruden opted to try for one more play at the goal line with six seconds remaining in the first half only to see Kirk Cousins get sacked. The team's defensive backfield is still a mess and Cousins is not yet inspiring us to call him a franchise quarterback. Not yet. But now the NFC East seems to be settling into its yearly period of mayhem and the Redskins are on the board.
2. In terms of Beckham-Norman, there was one clear winner. Josh Norman can -- and will -- say that his team got the win and that's all that matters. Odell Beckham caught seven passes for 121 yards with Norman shadowing him for a majority of the afternoon. Basically, Norman would only back off coverage if Beckham was in the slot. Beckham was more physical and displayed his typical balletic grace with a series of in-traffic grabs that kept this game alive for the Giants all afternoon. If we were scoring the game within the game, this one was no contest.
3. Emotions were high. Referees talked with both Beckham and Norman before Sunday's game, though reportedly not together because neither wanted to be around the other. Norman was attempting to set Beckham off throughout the day, once lifting the receiver like a figure skater after Beckham faked a fade route in the corner of the end zone. Beckham required pep talks from Eli Manning and several members of the coaching staff after a sideline tirade that saw him whip his helmet into the kicking net. His teammates will say that this kind of behavior is fine because it shows that Beckham cares. It will be interesting to see head coach Ben McAdoo weigh in during the week with his thoughts.
4. Su'a Cravens is for real. The Redskins rookie hybrid linebacker sealed the game with an incredible short-range interception. Eli Manning had been sneaking Shane Vereen out of the backfield all afternoon long, but telegraphed a check down pass on what looked to be a slant out of the backfield. Cravens' form was textbook -- after a great jam off the line he swooped inside after watching Manning look down toward his favorite checkdown target.
5. This game brought out the best and worst of the Giants and Redskins. We love rivalries, but this game featured two wildly undisciplined teams that were caught up in the moment. The Giants were penalized 11 times for 128 yards and fumbled the ball three times. Washington, in addition to their halftime gaffe, were penalized eight times for 70 yards in addition to three fumbles (1 lost). Giants rookie safety Andrew Adams blasted a Redskins gunner on a blocked punt that cost the Giants the play -- and a chance to start at Washington's 18-yard line.
6. Victor Cruz is incredible. In the loss, Cruz had another potentially game-changing reception after last week's huge fourth-quarter grab against the Saints. This time, it was a catch over the middle on a third-and-14 as the Giants were attempting to win the game. After more than 700 days away from football, Cruz's body is holding up remarkably well. He's attracting enough attention to open the field up for rookie Sterling Shepard, who caught five passes for 73 yards and a score.
7. Get on the Jamison Crowder train. One of my favorite receivers in the 2015 draft, Crowder tortured the lower rung of the Giants secondary on Sunday, catching four passes for 78 yards and a score, including a 55-yard touchdown. Crowder reminds us of a less bulky Cruz and is having the same early-career impact on defenses.