LONDON — The match, as they call it here, is set to be struck.
The Giants (3-3) and Rams (3-3) are both .500 teams, not the class of this season’s NFL, at least not shown to be yet. But Odell Beckham Jr. is a star, and Jeff Fisher’s team is nasty, and this is the London stage, and something is bound to happen Sunday at Twickenham Stadium in the only three hours of any week that the Giants’ continued employment of Josh Brown takes a backseat.
“Some guys that are out there can make big hits,” Beckham said of the Rams. “They’re a very physical team, a very chippy team. I love the way they play. It’s going to be quite a matchup.”
Well, nevermind. Brown continues to be a story. His replacement, kicker Robbie Gould, has arrived in London.
Gould told the team in an in-house interview that he was about to attend his son’s swim lesson in Chicago on Thursday night when the Giants called and changed his plans to an eight-hour flight to Heathrow.
Gould will be the Giants’ third kicker of this season, since Randy Bullock replaced Brown during his Week 1 suspension and now it is the longtime former Bears kicker and Penn State product replacing the disgraced Brown, who is on the commissioner’s exempt list as the NFL weighs further discipline.
See? The Brown story just won’t go away.
“It’s exciting to be here,” Gould, 34, told the team after landing. “It’s a great opportunity to play for one of the most heralded franchises in the NFL. Happy to get the opportunity and thankful.”
Again, a franchise description with an asterisk after this whole Brown mess. But Gould is excited.
Former Bears kicker Robbie Gould (9) will replace Josh Brown as the Giants’ kicker.
The Rams are a bit of an enigma: Their offense ranks 28th out of 32 NFL teams in points (18.3), pass yards (220.5) and rush yards (80.8) per game, and their defense is average, 17th across the board except for a 23rd rush defense ranking, allowing 22.8 points per game to opponents.
They lost a 28-0 shutout to the 49ers in Week 1 and enter on a two-game skid with a 30-19 defeat to the Bills and a 31-28 loss to the Lions. But they’ve also beaten Seattle (9-3), Tampa (37-32) and Arizona (17-13).
Beckham figures to be a big factor, therefore, because part of the Rams’ effective blueprint is to muck it up, led by former Saints Bountygate mastermind Gregg Williams, the Rams’ defensive coordinator.
That’s what happened in 2014 when these teams met: corner T.J. McDonald and Beckham got into it, taunting each other; linebacker Alec Ogletree roughed up Beckham on the sideline, starting a melee that featured defensive end William Hayes. McDonald, Ogletree and Hayes are all still with the Rams.
“You have to protect yourself at all times,” Beckham said here in London. “I think that comes down to not just you protecting yourself but everyone in the game of football. Refs, the NFL, everyone. Everyone has to understand what is at stake. You don’t need stuff like that to happen. What happened last time, it just shouldn’t be a big issue. Do expect it. If it’s not there, then it won’t be there. Always stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
Twickenham Stadium is hosting its first-ever NFL game, and as the Daily News reported earlier in the week, the field’s grass surface is expected to be even better-suited to host an NFL game than Wembley Stadium’s.
Twickenham, as the home of the English rugby team, is prepared for a game where “there’s a lot of traction, a lot of grit required in the feet,” as opposed to the slicker surfaces of the soccer stadiums, NFL executive VP of international Mark Waller told the Daily News.
The 82,000-seat stadium also is situated in a residential area, compared to Wembley’s feel as a “destination stadium,” which should produce a “very different experience,” from tailgating to seats closer to the action.
You don’t necessarily need to be too close to see Beckham’s next long touchdown and accompanying sideline spectacle. The cameras tend to find him. But Beckham continued to shrug off the criticism of his personality and the perception that the Giants consider him a distraction (created by comments by his coach and QB).
“It doesn’t bother me,” Beckham said. “If I ran off the field and didn’t celebrate it would be something that was written. Either way it goes, you have to live life. Enjoy it and have fun. No matter what I do there’s going to be extra attention. Period. If I dyed my hair another color, there would be attention. If I wear some funky shoes, there’s going to be extra attention. It is what it is at this point.
“You just have to go out and me personally, I have to do the best to not be a distraction to my team,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve ever felt that way in a sense. Everyone in the locker room knows what it is with me. They know how I feel about them and what I’m willing to do and give to them each and every day. Not just on Sunday.”
GIANTS VS. RAMS, TWICKENHAM STADIUM, LONDON, 9:30 AM
LINE: GIANTS BY 2½; O/U: 44½
TV: Ch. 2 (Kevin Harlan and Dan Fouts)
RADIO: WFAN 660 AM, 101.9 FM (Bob Papa and Carl Banks)
FORECAST: More clounds than sun. High 55°, Low 49°. Chance of rain: 3%; Winds 10-15 mph
GIANTS HOT READ: RB RASHAD JENNINGS
Ever since running back Shane Vereen landed on injured reserve because of a triceps injury, the Giants’ rushing attack has bordered on non-existent. They’ve failed to break 80 yards on the ground in the last three games after rushing for 120 in a loss to Washington, which was Vereen’s last appearance. And in the last two games, they haven’t topped 43 yards. But there’s good news: starter Rashad Jennings, who’s been battling a thumb injury, returned last week in the Giants’ win over the Ravens for his first game action in close to a month. And though he didn’t muster much production — he finished with 15 yards on nine carries — the 31-year-old is only getting healthier. The Rams are in the bottom half of the league in run defense in terms of yards per carry and could be missing up to three of their starting defensive linemen, so this could be a good opportunity for the Giants’ struggling running game to gain some needed momentum behind a breakout game from Jennings.
TRAINING ROOM: S Nat Berhe (concussion), OT Marshall Newhouse (calf) and S Darian Thompson (foot) are OUT. LS Zak DeOssie (ankle) is QUESTIONABLE. CB Eli Apple (groin), WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hip), RB Rashad Jennings (thumb), LB Keenan Robinson (knee) and CB Trevin Wade (ankle) are PROBABLE.
RAMS HOT READ: LB ALEC OGLETREE
The Giants last played the Rams on Dec. 22, 2014. Odell Beckham Jr. was still just a rising star, four games removed from the dazzling one-handed catch against the Cowboys that thrust him into the national spotlight. But he was already showing signs of his trademarked hot-headedness. In this particular matchup in St. Louis, Beckham was hit late out of bounds by Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree. Beckham slammed the ball on Ogletree, who responded by shoving Beckham back into the turf. A sideline brawl erupted that led to three ejections. It was the first glaring instance of the strategy many teams have adopted to try and throw Beckham off his game. Opposing defenders will hit Beckham late. They trash talk. They do anything to evoke the emotional outbursts that have become a detriment to Beckham — that is when he’s not turning slant routes into 65-yard game-winning touchdowns. Make no mistake: The Rams will be trying to get in Beckham’s head on Sunday in London. And look for Ogletree to once again lead the charge for Jeff Fisher’s defense.
TRAINING ROOM: DT Michael Brockers (thigh) and CB Trumaine Johnson (ankle) are OUT. OG Jamon Brown (hand) and WR Nelson Spruce (calf) are DOUBTFUL. DE William Hayes (ankle) and DE Robert Quinn (shoulder) are QUESTIONABLE.
With DANIEL POPPER
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News