It looked like it might be another one of those games for Saquon Barkley.
No, not one of his dominating games like he had rushing for an NFL-high 164 yards in Week 1. One of those strange games when an all-world talent is held to a stunningly low rushing total.
But the Giants stuck with the run and a healthy Barkley grinded through the second half Sunday to finish with 21 carries for 72 yards, after he was held to five carries for 3 yards in the first half.
Barkley’s two most important runs during a 19-16 win against the Panthers were a 16-yarder that fueled a game-tying touchdown drive in response to falling behind for the first time and a 6-yarder that helped run out the fourth-quarter clock.
“We made a couple of adjustments at halftime, but a lot of it was just staying at it and wearing them down,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. “The run game will happen like that sometimes where early on in the game they match it and they are playing physical, but I thought we amped it up in the second half and found some creases. Once you hit one, it helps the next one. The guys up front did a good job. Saquon did a good job, too.”
The Panthers allowed 217 rushing yards (5.6 per carry) in a season-opening loss to the Browns, so it seemed like a mismatch entering the game.
But Barkley, who has had three career games with at least eight rushes and 10 yards or fewer, was expecting an improved opponent. He got it when the Panthers held the Giants to six first-half points despite turnover-created great starting field position.
“The week before they were getting gashed like crazy,” Barkley said. “We knew there were opportunities to be there, but [the Panthers] had a great game plan. All [our coaches] guys came in and adjusted it. We didn’t panic, we didn’t waver. We settled down and got the game going.”
The Giants needed two first downs in the final 2:06 to seal the victory. Barkley went for 6 yards before the chains moved on a defensive penalty. He then ran for 4 and zero and was supposed to be the target of a third-and-6 pass that became a scramble by Jones for 11 yards.
The message was clear: With the game on the line, the Giants want the ball in Barkley’s hands.
“We have a lot of guys that have no quit, that will fight and continue to keep that competitive mindset,” Barkley said. “The offensive guys are capable of doing better especially with field position like that. But at the end of the day all you want is a win.”