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Week 10 in the NFL concludes with Monday Night Football as the Los Angeles Rams, on the back of signing Odell Beckham Jr, take on the San Francisco 49ers, live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am in the early hours of Tuesday morning
Last Updated: 15/11/21 6:07pm
The NFL’s two receiving leaders will face off on Monday night when Deebo Samuel’s San Francisco 49ers host Cooper Kupp’s Los Angeles Rams, though the spotlight will be fixed elsewhere on the outside in wait of Odell Beckham Jr’s debut.
The three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver pledged his allegiance to the Rams on a one-year deal last Thursday having cleared waivers on the back of his release from the Cleveland Browns.
Among his reported preferences when it came to a landing spot had been a post-season contender; that, the star-studded Rams most certainly are. Among the unwritten, unofficial preferences had, likely, been volume in touches after coming away from a Cleveland offense spearheaded by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the ground; Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford will get him the ball. If not tonight after limited practice time, then in the weeks to come.
Injuries have delayed his rediscovery of the form that saw him considered among the league’s top three receivers across three successive seasons of 1,300-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns to begin his NFL career with the New York Giants. But the body-contorting, ‘catch me if you can’, one-hand-grabbing playmaker can still be unearthed again, and California might be just the place to do it.
“Stars go to LA and Odell Beckham is a star,” former NFL defensive back Jason Bell told Sky Sports. “They needed somebody who could open up their offense vertically downfield and he can do that.
“But the main thing with the Rams is the blocking by the receivers, I want to see if he can get dirty down there in the trenches.
“He’s going on a team that has an opportunity to get to the Super Bowl, that’s what he wants to be involved with, he wants be in LA with the stars being a star. He’s going to give it everything he has on the field. I expect Odell to really light some things up.
“As a fan you’ve got to love it because when you see trades happening, you want somebody that comes in and will impact a team immediately and that’s exactly what they have with Odell Beckham. He just has to get his rhythm with the quarterback but Sean McVay will catch him up to speed quickly.”
He teams up with McVay, Stafford and the No. 3-ranked passing offense in the NFL, led by Kupp’s league-high 1,019 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
A day of celebration upon his arrival also became one of disappointment, though, when Rams receiver Robert Woods suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
“Everything felt right about coming here, except that moment,” Beckham said. “This is a guy who called me on the phone on FaceTime, and we shared words and just how excited we were to work together, and for me to be able to learn from him. I have no words for it.
“It was like disheartening when I got the call. I don’t have many words for it. I know that he was the heart and soul of this team and just kind of trying to do whatever I can to help. Those are big shoes to fill but do whatever I can to help him. My heart goes out to him.”
McVay admitted it was impossible to replace a player like Woods, who set the tone for the expectations of a Rams receiver when it came to the dirty work and leadership that accompanies the glory of a catch or touchdown. His loss quickly turned the signing of Beckham from a luxury into something of a necessity amid their glaringly, unapologetic all-in push for a Super Bowl.
The 29-year-old caught just 40 passes for 551 yards and three touchdowns over the last two seasons as injuries slowed him following 1,035 yards in his first year for the Browns after being traded by the Giants in 2019.
“He looks really good,” said Kupp. “He wants to learn. Obviously there’s a lot of stuff to learn in this offense, but he looks like Odell. He looks like he can separate, can catch the ball. Looks like a great athlete, great receiver. Excited to be out there with him.”
The 49ers enter the contest 3-5 and with just one win in six having gone over a year without a home victory at Levi’s Stadium. That said, they have beaten the Rams in each of their last four meetings.
Both sides are seeking responses to demoralising Week Nine defeats, the Rams falling to the Derrick Henry-less, albeit defensively-resurgent, Tennessee Titans and the 49ers losing to the Colt McCoy led Arizona Cardinals, who were just routed by the Carolina Panthers. It is a strange league, you’re right.
Samuel has been a constant bright spot amid inconsistencies on offense and enters Monday second only to Kupp with 49 catches for 882 yards and four touchdowns, while rookie running back Elijah Mitchell has proven a shrewd find with 469 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
The 49ers have been waiting for help from elsewhere, though. Tight end George Kittle and second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk have combined for just 558 yards and three touchdowns so far this season, and 2020 rushing leader Jeff Wilson is still yet to feature after starting the year on the reserve/PUP list.
For a team that promised so much this season, the return thus far has been underwhelming.
“I definitely think there’s a big hunger to win,” said coach Kyle Shanahan said Thursday. “I think there’s a huge sense of urgency.
“There’s a different type of disappointment, a different type of frustration. But the hunger, the energy, that’s all still there.”
Week 10 in the NFL concludes with Monday Night Football as the Los Angeles Rams, on the back of signing Odell Beckham Jr., take on the San Francisco 49ers live on Sky Sports NFL from 1.15am in the early hours of Tuesday morning.