Former Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wins NFC title with Rams, will face Bengals in Super Bowl
Three months after Odell Beckham Jr. forced his departure from the Browns, the wide receiver will play in the Super Bowl.
Beckham and the Los Angeles Rams prevailed 20-17 over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night in the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
The Rams will play in their home stadium again Feb. 13 when they face the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. Earlier Sunday, the Bengals upset the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in overtime in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Everything about [the Rams] is right, and it’s done right,” Beckham said Sunday night during his postgame news conference. “It’s just been an incredible opportunity that I feel like [I’m] just trying to make the most of, and, you know, here we are playing in the Super Bowl, one game away from our dreams and just got to keep going.”
No matter which team triumphs, the Super Bowl figures to be an experience fit for “The Twilight Zone” from a Browns perspective.
If the Rams win, Beckham will hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the same season in which he filed for divorce from the Browns.
If the Bengals win, the Browns will watch an AFC North rival they swept this season bask in the sport’s ultimate glory.
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Beckham had nine catches on 11 targets for 113 yards to help the Rams prevail over the Niners.
“Odell was outstanding today,” Rams coach Sean McVay said during his postgame news conference. “To be able to go over 100 [yards], he had some key and critical catches.
“He’s a special player. He’s so smart. He’s so talented, so gifted, and he’s brought such a charisma and a presence and really a swag to our team. Love Odell. Really just happy for him.”
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In Beckham’s six games with the Browns in 2021, he caught 17 passes on 34 targets for 232 yards without a touchdown.
In his eight regular-season games with the Rams, he caught 27 passes on 48 targets for 305 yards and five touchdowns.
In three playoff games, OBJ has caught 19 passes on 23 targets for 236 yards and a touchdown.
“[The Rams] have made [my transition to their offense] seamless with the meetings, the extra work, just helping me to be prepared, so I can go out there and play fast,” Beckham said. “[My] very first game, we played San Francisco at San Francisco, the first play of the game, the ball was thrown my way. They’ve instilled confidence into me.”
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The Browns waived Beckham on Nov. 8 after his frustration had reached a boiling point. Three days later, Beckham struck a deal to join the Rams.
Beckham, 29, signed a one-year contract worth as much as $4.25 million, including $3 million in team-based incentives. He has earned $2 million of those incentives this postseason. He will receive another $500,000 if he’s active in a Super Bowl loss, but he’ll take home $1 million for a Super Bowl win, according to spotrac.com.
Beckham shared the interview podium with friend and Rams edge rusher Von Miller after Sunday’s game. OBJ recalled Miller and Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey urging him to join them in Los Angeles amid his breakup with the Browns.
“I remember everything was going down and I was getting that phone call from Von and Jalen every day, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, man. I don’t know,'” Beckham said. “And it just was on my heart, and I felt like this was the right place. I just can’t say enough about God and just staying down and staying in faith. Just truly an amazing moment.
“Here with Von, this is a brother. We talked about this. Didn’t ever think that it would really be possible, and here we are.”
When Beckham and Miller worked out together last offseason, Miller wondered aloud about them playing together with the Browns, but Beckham replied, “Don’t come to Cleveland,” Miller recently told Sports Illustrated.
At the time, the Browns were coming off a record of 12-6, including 1-1 in the playoffs, and Beckham was rehabilitating from a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament after his second year in Cleveland, where he arrived in March 2019 as a result of a trade with the New York Giants.
On Nov. 1, the Denver Broncos traded Miller to the Rams.
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Beckham had requested to be traded from the Browns multiple times last offseason and again after he had just one catch on one target for 6 yards Oct. 31 in a 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a person familiar with the situation said.
On Nov. 2, Beckham’s father, Odell Beckham Sr., shared a video on Instagram highlighting plays on which Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield missed opportunities to connect with a wide-open OBJ from Weeks 3-6 in the 2021 season. Beckham Sr. also repeatedly wrote “#bigfacts” in agreement with people who ripped Mayfield in the comments section of the post.
NBA superstar LeBron James supported Beckham the same day by tweeting, “OBJ will show again why he’s special. WR1 #FreeOBJ.” So it should come as no surprise that Akron native James gave Beckham a shout-out Sunday night on Twitter for advancing to the Super Bowl for the first time in his career.
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The Browns rallied around Mayfield in the aftermath of Beckham fleeing and played their most complete game of the season Nov. 7 in a 41-16 victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
But the season unraveled for the Browns and Mayfield as he played through a completely torn labrum suffered in his left, non-throwing shoulder in Week 2. He had surgery on Jan. 19.
The Browns finished 8-9 and missed the playoffs after entering the season with Super Bowl expectations. They defeated the AFC North champion Bengals 21-16 in the regular-season finale Jan. 9 at FirstEnergy Stadium, but Cincinnati played mostly backups while resting its frontline players for the postseason.
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Many Browns players will be pulling for Beckham to win it all.
“I’m rooting for him,” Browns receiver Anthony Schwartz told the Beacon Journal via Zoom on Thursday. “That’s a guy that I’ve looked up to since I was in high school. Being able to play with him, even if it was only for half of the year, just the things that he taught me and what I learned from him and how he was to me — he treated me like I was his brother pretty much — so just seeing him in the playoffs, seeing him going off, I’m happy to see that, and I want him to succeed. I’m actively rooting for [the Rams], rooting for him to bring that Super Bowl home.”
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A 2021 third-round draft pick, Schwartz said he and Beckham have stayed in touch, and OBJ’s messy exit from Cleveland hasn’t changed the way Schwartz feels about his former teammate.
“Everyone you play with, when I see a teammate, I treat him as a brother,” Schwartz said. “So seeing how he was in the locker room, how he was supporting everyone, helping everyone, no matter if you were a rookie, a vet, middle [of career], practice squad, it didn’t matter. He was always there to help and always there to give his guidance.
“When you have a guy like that, it’s hard not to root for him. Especially how he’s doing now and seeing how he’s playing, we’re all pulling for him — everyone in terms of the receiver room, everyone else I’ve seen. Everyone’s been rooting for him. That’s pretty much what it is. He’s more of a brother. He’s not just a teammate. We’re all brothers. That’s how we see things.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at [email protected].
Super Bowl LVI
Bengals vs. Rams
Time: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13