EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Odell Beckham Jr.’s first three months in the NFL weren’t fun. It started with a hamstring injury in training camp, jumped to a disagreement New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin and eventually led to the feeling of letting down his teammates and himself.
All it took was one game for Beckham to make all the frustration go away.
Beckham made his NFL debut a memorable one, catching a go-ahead 15-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning with 10:02 left to lead the Giants to a 30-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, extending their winning streak to three games.
“To be out this long and to have to deal with the adversity I have had, I just I have to thank God for giving me the opportunity to play and for allowing me to score in my first game,” Beckham said after scoring. “It’s just great to get that off your chest.”
Manning said the scoring pass in the corner of the end zone was a route that the two had never practiced. Beckham made a double move and came back to catch the ball.
“I just saw it go up and I said: ‘There is no way this is going to hit the ground,’” said Beckham, who finished with four catches for 44 yards.
Fellow rookie Andre Williams scored on a 3-yard run to ignite the second-half rally that saw the Giants (3-2) come from 10-points down to hand Atlanta (2-3) its third road loss in as many games.
Falcons coach Mike Smith refused to blame the team’s injuries for the loss.
“It’s not anybody’s fault but mine,” he said. “It is my responsibility as the head coach, ultimately. And I will, and do, take responsibility for that. It is not about those players.”
Manning threw two touchdowns and Josh Brown added three field goals, the last of which was set up when the Giants sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on fourth down with 4:40 remaining.
Ryan threw for 316 yards and a touchdown playing behind a banged-up offensive line that held up until the very end. Atlanta dropped its second straight since dominating Tampa Bay 56-14 on Sept. 18.
The Giants fell behind 20-10 on a 74-yard catch and run by Falcons running back Antone Smith after Antrel Rolle missed a tackle.
Beckham, the 12th pick overall from LSU, missed all of the preseason and the first four games of the regular season. In the third quarter Sunday, he finally made an impact.
After Smith’s score, the Giants came back an 81-yard drive that featured Beckham drawing a 26-yard pass interference penalty against Robert Alford. Williams caught a 14-yard pass from Manning (19 of 30 for 200 yards) and ran for 11 before powering his way over from the 3 with 2:05 left in the third quarter to get the Giants within 20-17.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Giants took the lead with an 11-play, 64-yard drive that featured passes of 14 and 15 yards to Beckham, the last one a jumping catch in the corner of the end zone for a 24-20 lead.
Fellow receiver Victor Cruz was excited after Beckham’s first game.
“He is a guy who can change the complexion of our offense and wide receiving corps, and make us that much better,” Cruz said. “It’s big for us to get him back and going in the right direction.”
Atlanta never threatened after Beckham’s score, and Brown iced the game with his second and third field goals.
The Falcons’ line lost center Joe Hawley and right tackle Lamar Holmes with season-ending injuries last weekend and had left guard Justin Blalock out with a back problem. Peter Konz, Gabe Carimi and Harland Gunn replaced them and kept Ryan upright most of the game, helping them take a 13-10 lead.
Julio Jones had eight catches for 88 yards in the half and finished with 11 for 105. He helped to set up two 20-yard field goals by Bryant and a 10-yard TD run by Jackson.
Manning finished 19 of 30 for 200 yards. Giants running back Rashad Jennings left the game in the second half with a sprained knee, and Williams got most of the carries.