EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' rushing attack demonstrated last week that grinding can be better than glamorous.
In their 36-20 victory against the Miami Dolphins, the Giants had 33 rushing attempts, their second-highest total of the season. They had 37 against Washington – their opponent this week - on Sept. 29. Not coincidentally, those are two of their three victories this year.
But not one of those 33 attempts gained more than 12 yards. Despite that, the Giants controlled the game, particularly in a second half in which they outscored Miami 29-10 (and it wasn't that close; the Dolphins scored a token touchdown with 1:54 remaining).
Saquon Barkley had perhaps his most dominant performance of the year with 112 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 24 carries. He gained another 31 yards on four receptions. Recently-installed Buck Allen had eight attempts for 28 yards and scored his first touchdown in a Giants uniform.
More than any previous game this season, Barkley resembled the player who won the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. He controlled the game on the ground, even if his gains weren't particularly long.
"That's part of football," he said today. "That's part of being a running back, that's part of a running game. That's what I've been kind of preaching saying we haven't gotten to that yet. Not saying I'm pointing fingers as to why we haven't, it was more of the reason just the game and having an opportunity for it. That was really one of our first four-minute, or technically our first four-minute probably happened around the six minute or eight-minute time, but that's probably the first time we had the chance to do that this year and we executed.
"The O-line did a great job creating holes and stopping penetration and having movement. Coaches made great calls, put me in the right spots, and I go some one on ones. Obviously, you don't win them all, but I won more than I lost. I don't think we had one run over 12 yards, so it was more of just grind and pound and efficient gain. We were able to get into the fourth quarter, win the ball a little more, Buck was able to go in there and show his skillset too. I think it was a good day for the running game and for running backs."
The 138 rushing yards was the Giants' third-highest total of the season. They ran for 151 yards on opening day in Dallas and a season-high 164 in their victory against the Redskins. This season, Barkley missed three games with a sprained ankle and the Giants have run for more than 100 yards seven times in 14 games. In 2018, they also topped the century barrier in half of their games – eight of 16. Barkley had seven 100-yard games. Last week, he had his third this season and first since Week 2.
"We had a really good day rushing the football, and we really didn't have … a lot of explosive plays," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "I think that's a credit to him, as well as our offensive line, to be able to move the ball efficiently and gain that many yards on the ground, without like one run for 70 and the rest have a low average. Again, like some other things that we've talked about, I think there are some signs that are pointing in the right direction upfront and then with Saquon."
Barkley hurt his ankle in a victory at Tampa Bay on Sept. 22. He returned to the field against Arizona four weeks later, when he tweaked the ankle. That was the first of a career-long seven-game stretch in which he failed to reach 100 yards. Barkley gained just one yard on 13 carries against the Jets. He never used the aftereffects of the injury as an excuse.
But he revealed today the ankle was on his mind. Now, however, he isn't concerned about it.
"The mental part was more of just, even though your body feels well, your body feels good, you go out there you're able to make the cut, it's still just that, I don't know - fear is not the word - of someone landing on it and falling again," Barkley said. "And for me it happened literally the first game I came back. So, that was probably the mental part that I had to fight and get over until I think probably after the bye week, it was definitely completely gone. I could show clips that I still, I guess you could say, still got it. Even though I don't think that's the right term to use. But also, I could show you clips where I can see myself, I'm not thinking I'm doing that, but I can see on film and it's showing that I'm protecting myself. That hasn't been the case in the last couple of weeks."
Shula said against the Dolphins he saw Barkley "more so than any other games where I've really seen him cut it loose on some 90 degree turns that we saw last year."
The Giants hope to see more of them in the season's final two games, which they believe will help them give them a successful three-game finish to an otherwise disappointing season.
*Safety Antoine Bethea missed practice for the second straight day because his wife gave birth. Coach Pat Shurmur said he expects Bethea to return tomorrow.
*Tight end Rhett Ellison, who practice fully yesterday, was limited to non-contact work today. Ellison has missed the last four games with a concussion.
"Each guy (with a concussion) responds differently to coming back," Shurmur said. "That's a process bringing him back, so we'll just have to see by the end of the week."
*Quarterback Daniel Jones was again a full participant. Shurmur indicated he will announce tomorrow that Jones will start in Washington after a two-game absence due to his sprained ankle.
*Guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle) was again limited. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton did not practice, but his absence was no injury related.
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