Saquon Barkley played like a ‘gold jacket guy’ – and that’s the best news from the Giants | Politics

NASHVILLE— Saquon Barkley looked down the sideline and saw his head coach throw two fingers in the air. He made eye contact with Brian Daboll and grinned widely, because in that brief look, the running back knew exactly what was coming next.

He knew the Giants were going for the two-point conversion on the road against the Tennessee Titans late in the fourth quarter. He knew the ball was going to be where it belonged – in his hands – with a chance to steal the kind of victory that had eluded this team so many times in recent years.

“EFF YEAH! Barkley said he yelled, but clearly he was cleaning up his dialogue for the kids back home. Then again, even the youngest Giants fans are forgiven if they let a few choice words fly in the excitement late Sunday afternoon, because what Barkley has done on this game and in the game as a whole could change the course of this season.

It wasn’t just that Barkley converted the two-point try to lead the Giants to that unexpected 21-20 win over the Titans. It was How? ‘Or’ What he did, taking a sneaky shovel pass from quarterback Daniel Jones, shaking a glaring (and unmarked) facemask, and lowering his shoulder into a safety as he pushed his way into the end zone.

By then, Barkley looked just like Tennessee sideline running back Derrick Henry, who has dominated the NFL in recent seasons. More importantly, he looked like the “gold jacket guy” the Giants thought they were drafting with the No. 2 overall pick in 2018 and the one who blasted his way to a record-breaking rookie season.

“I’m happy number 26 is in our squad,” Daboll said after an emotional dressing room celebration. But this No. 26, the one who got 164 yards on 18 carries, looked a lot different than the version that’s been around in previous seasons… when he’s been there, that is.

Barkley has hit back at his critics several times this offseason, railing at “All-Pros with clickers in their hands” who accused him of “dancing in the backfield” when he should have advanced a few yards hard earned. He said he was “fed up”. He asked naysayers to stay off the bandwagon as he reclaimed his spot as one of the league’s top running backs.

I was one of those sceptics. But, for the most part, it wasn’t a subjective review. It was abundantly clear, both in the box scores and on the tape, that Barkley was not the player the Giants needed.

Think back to last season. The Giants were in Washington in Week 2, looking to avoid a 0-2 start, as they had the ball deep in Commanders territory. They gave Barkley the ball twice, on first and second down, looking for the touchdown that would likely have won the game.

First range: one meter.

Second range: two meters.

The Giants would lose on a punch basket. That was when Barkley was still recovering from the ACL injury that ended his 2020 season, of course, and before the sprained ankle last November that ended another season prematurely. . At some point in the second half of that game, he had eight carries for 41 yards … and one rush for 41 yards. The other seven went for 5, -2, 2, 0, -1, -6 and 2.

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It had become the Saquon experience. That, to be clear, had nothing to do with his Sunday performance in Tennessee, when he threw the Giants on his back. He seemed to get stronger as the game got worse, just like the best running backs do.

“I started getting into the zone,” Barkley said. “I love being in this place. I have to try to find a way to get into this place a little more and a little faster.

The NFL is legendary for overreacting in Week 1, so it’s best to proceed with caution with the Giants 1-0 down. They were trailing 13-0 and Tennessee, with both their sloppy play and questionable coaching, seemed determined to give them that win.

The Giants won despite Jones turning the ball over twice, with the offensive line allowing five sacks and the defense leaving the Titans heading for the basket with just one minute on the clock. They were lucky, to put it mildly.

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Still, if Barkley can replicate that performance, they’ll win more games than they’re supposed to. He finally admitted, following his big game, that he was not himself last season. He saw what Adrian Peterson did in his season after tearing his ACL, rushing for over 2,000 yards, and figured this was the way to go for him. He was wrong.

“I’m human,” Barkley said. “You’re just like, ‘I don’t care. I want to be different. I’m going to be different. It wasn’t really just a mindset change, it’s going out there and just believing in me, trust me and show my God given ability.

It showed Sunday in Nashville, and it was the best development for the Giants on an afternoon full of promise. Barkley put his shoulder down and bullied this team to a win, and in an instant it was like 2018 again. Maybe even better.

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Steve Politi can be reached at [email protected].