EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It's been said that you can watch the NFL on any given Sunday (and Monday or Thursday) and watch something you've never seen in a football game.
Mike Kafka did last week in Jacksonville, and he engineered the whole thing.
Kafka, the Giants' offensive coordinator, called the same running play eight times in a row on the Giants' final offensive possession against the Jaguars. The Giants traveled 61 yards on the ground and burned 3:25 off the clock before Graham Gano's 34-yard field goal increased the Giants' lead to 23-17, which was the final margin after the Jaguars' last drive ended a yard short of the goal line.
"That would be the first for me," Kafka said today.
The Giants didn't disguise their intentions. Indeed, Daniel Jones threw only one pass the entire fourth quarter. Devery Hamilton was on the field as an extra offensive lineman. Chris Myarick was a lead-blocking fullback. Rookie left guard Joshua Ezeudu, who entered the game in the first quarter after Ben Bredeson injured his knee, was an escort by continually pulling to the right.
The primary beneficiary was Saquon Barkley, who on the series had six carries around right end for 44 yards – 40% of his game total of 110.
Barkley's backup, Matt Breida, gained two yards running to the left as a one-play substitute. Quarterback Daniel Jones gained 15 yards around the left end just prior to the two-minute warning. But each of Kafka's calls were the same.
"I think, first off, credit goes to our run-game contingent – (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson), (tight ends coach) Andy Bischoff, (running backs coach) DeAndre (Smith) – for the conviction to add those plays at the end of the game," Kafka said. "And definitely the players for going out and executing it. It's not easy to do that in the National Football League and they did a nice job of handling it, picking up yards when we needed it."
"It's not hard to call it (continually) if it's working," coach Brian Daboll said. "It's probably a little bit harder to block it sometimes. But there's times where they are thinking, 'They can't run this again,' and then you run it again. He complimented his coordinator by saying, "Kafka stayed with it."
Barkley was glad he did.
"It's really impressive and it starts up front with the guys, the offensive line, the tight ends," said Barkley, who leads the NFL with 906 scrimmage yards. "Establishing the line of scrimmage and that's how you win or lose football games by establishing the line of scrimmage. We're doing a really good job of that so far this season, but especially in that moment when everybody knows you're running the ball … pretty much run the same play a couple times in a row. It's pretty impressive."
Perhaps the only flaw on the drive was Barkley's. On his final carry, a four-yard gain, he unintentionally slid out of bounds. Had he stayed in, the victory would have been all but clinched. When he went out, the officials added more than 30 seconds on the clock, to 1:07. Gano extended the Giants' lead, but Jacksonville had enough time to drive 74 yards – one shy of what almost certainly would have been the game-winning touchdown (assuming a successful extra point).
After the game, Barkley chastised himself for not staying in bounds. Today, he was not as hard on himself.
"Going back to the getting out of bounds thing, just got to be more aware and slide a little earlier," he said. "Never want to put our team in the situation where there's a minute and four seconds on the clock (after the field goal) and they have a chance to go down and score."
How does he feel now?
"It's gone to be completely honest," Barkley said. "I already know the type of player I am, the type of person I am. I honestly can't wait for that next opportunity. You kind of want that. It's four minutes, five minutes, whatever time was left on the clock but as a player and as a running back everyone knows that you're running the ball. You want to take that responsibility and put the game away. Like I said, I got to do a better job than I did last week, and I know I'll do a better job."
*Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney have often been spoken of and written about in tandem this season, because of their lengthy stretches off the field. So, it was hardly a surprise that a couple of hours after word leaked that Toney had been traded to Kansas City Chiefs, Golladay was surrounded at his locker by reporters asking if he's worried he might be the next to go.
"I'm worried about getting back on the field," Golladay said.
He hasn't been there since the Giants' victory against Chicago on Oct. 2 when he injured his knee. Golladay played in the season's first four games and caught two passes for 27 yards. He won't play Sunday in Seattle but is hopeful he can return after the Giants' Nov. 6 bye.
"Getting there," he said. "Just steady trying to stack good days on one another. I feel a lot better, though. … I'm just worried about day by day. Bye week is next week, I'm just trying to continue to improve each day. I'm going to see how the bye goes, but I will say the past couple days have been pretty good. Praying for no setbacks and everything. Hope everything goes to plan.
"It all depends on how I feel tomorrow and how I feel next week."
Golladay misses playing particularly for a team that has won six of its first seven games.
"Oh man, I want to be a part of it big time," he said. "I'm trying everything to get back out there. I've never even been a part of a team that's gone 6-1. I'm trying to do everything to get back out there.
"I get jealous of the guys. In a good way, though. It motivates me even more to get out there with them just so I can put my little stamp on the game. However that comes – if it's in the blocking area, if it's in the pass catching – that's the part I get jealous about. Just seeing the guys out there having fun with it."
While they were, Golladay often rehabbed with Toney, who is now a former teammate.
"Of course, it kind of came out of nowhere," Golladay said. "I haven't really gotten the chance to talk to him yet. I'm going to reach out to him."
*The Giants' injury report was unchanged from yesterday (except for Toney's exclusion): Not practicing: Golladay, tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye), guard Ben Bredeson (knee), tackle Evan Neal (knee), linebacker Oshane Ximines (quad) and cornerback Cor'Dale Flott. Limited: defensive lineman Leonard Williams (elbow), offensive lineman Tyre Phillips (toe) and defensive back Jason Pinnock (foot).
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