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Giants eager to get back to full strength

SAQUON-BARKLEY

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – If the Giants were to choose their best game of the first half of the season, it would almost certainly be their overtime victory in New Orleans on Oct. 3.

It was the only game among their first nine in which they scored three touchdowns and the only game in which they finished with more than 400 total yards (485) and passing yards (402 for Daniel Jones, who was not sacked). And it was the contest in which they executed their two longest plays of the year, touchdown passes of 54 yards to Saquon Barkley and 52 yards to John Ross.

They needed every one of those yards and plays to pull out a 27-21 overtime victory against the Saints.

The offensive outburst wasn't accidental or due to luck. Barkley and Kenny Golladay, the team's top running back and wide receiver, each had his most productive game of the season. Barkley rushed for 52 yards, caught five passes for 74 yards, and scored the game-winning touchdown on a six-yard run with 5:06 elapsed in overtime. Golladay had season-high totals of six receptions for 116 yards, a gaudy 19.3-yard average, including a 23-yard catch immediately preceding the deciding score.

"Certainly, that was a game where we were most healthy, and our guys played really well in a tough environment against a good team," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said today. "So that's something you certainly want to build on, but each game is unique."

"When we had all of us at almost full strength, I would say – I think that was the Saints game – I feel like we played pretty well, but it's any given Sunday," Golladay said. "We've just got to keep going out there each game and producing.

"That's pretty close to what I envision (the offense should look like). Everybody touched the ball. D.J. threw for like 400. Say (Barkley) had a long touchdown reception, then he capped it off with the game-winning rushing touchdown. That's a pretty damn good game. But I mean, I feel like we left some plays out there as well, so I feel like it can get better."

They might have to Monday night. That's when the Giants will visit the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose 279 points are exactly 100 more than the Giants have scored in the same number of games.

"I would say our focus right now as an offense is continuing to improve," coach Joe Judge said. "I've seen a lot of improvement over the last month and we've got to keep on that track right now going forward."

The Giants averaged 19.2 points in the five games since their victory in New Orleans, in part because Barkley and Golladay suffered injuries the following week in Dallas that sidelined them long-term. Barkley sprained his left ankle and has yet to play. Golladay returned to play 31 snaps and catch two passes for 28 yards in the Giants' pre-bye victory against Las Vegas.

Golladay will be in uniform Monday night, giving Garrett a crucial weapon to deploy.

"Just a big fan of Kenny," Garrett said. "We were excited to bring him here and obviously he missed a lot of time in training camp (with a hamstring injury), and he's missed time throughout the season, but his approach is outstanding. He's always working hard to get himself back and when he has an opportunity to practice, he practices hard and when he's been healthy, he's played really well for us and made a big impact."

Barkley was limited in practice today and Judge has been coy about if or how much he will play.

Asked how Barkley looked, Judge said, "In the walk-through yesterday, he was okay." He was more expansive responding to a follow-up question,

"He's done most with the trainers," Judge said prior to practice. "They do more with him in the rehab work. When you get more back to football drills, it kind of gives you a better idea. When guys are with the trainers, a lot of the times, it's more straight line running and different kind of exercises that build them up. When we get them, all of a sudden, you get them through more individual and reactionary type stuff, where you can really see what's going to translate into practice and the game. It kind of gives you a better view in the earlier part of practice to see if we feel if they're good enough to put in the rest of practice."

Garrett would certainly like to see Barkley line up in the backfield.

"He's just a great football player," Garrett said. "I've told you this before, I was on the other side of this for a couple of years against him and he's one of those players that can just really impact a game. There's a lot of two-yard runs, three-yard runs, four-yard runs, non-descript plays and then it's a 68-yard touchdown on a screen or somehow, he gets outside, breaks a tackle and gets to the edge and he can be impactful. We saw that in New Orleans. He made those kinds of plays for us. He's a hell of a football player, but don't lose sight of the fact that Book (running back Devontae Booker) has done a really good job when he's had opportunities. When we've handed the ball to (fullback) Eli Penny, those guys have embraced their chances, too. We're excited about them as well and whoever's available and healthy, we'll put them in there, and those guys will do a good job for us."

*Left tackle Andrew Thomas, who missed four of the last five games with ankle and foot injuries, has been designated for return from injured reserve and could be activated any time in the next three weeks. Thomas returned to the practice field this week. Judge said tackles Nate Solder, Matt Peart and Thomas could all play on Monday.

"We can absolutely rotate all of our tackles," Judge said. "I say all the time that I expect everyone who comes to the game to play and be productive. So, the plan is for everyone out here who's working with us to be ready for the game. As we get into the game, I would expect everyone to play."

*Tom Brady first faced the Giants on Oct. 12, 2003, in Foxborough. He completed just eight of 21 passes, but the Patriots won, 17-6. Garrett was the Giants' third quarterback that day, behind Kerry Collins and Jesse Palmer. Garrett has faced Brady's team nine times as an assistant or head coach and said today the seven-time Super Bowl champion is the greatest player in history.

"They're going to make a Mount Rushmore of football players at some point and the first face they chisel will be that guy's face," Garrett said. "He's the best that ever walked and he's a hell of a football player and what he's done over the last 20 years has been remarkable. To think he's 44-years-old and probably playing the best ball of his career, it's really amazing. He's an inspiration to everybody in and out of sports."

*Four Giants did not practice today: wide receiver Sterling Shepard (quad), tight end Kaden Smith (knee), linebacker Lorenzo Carter (illness/ankle) and safety Nate Ebner (knee).

In addition to Barkley, Booker (hip) and fullback Cullen Gillaspia (calf) were limited.

View rare photos from the all-time series between the Giants and Buccaneers ahead of their Week 11 Monday night matchup.

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