Giants’ Saquon Barkley overcomes rough first half with critical effort down stretch

LANDOVER, Md. — At halftime Sunday, Saquon Barkley had minus-2 rushing yards on the six times the Giants gave him the ball in the ground game.

He did have a 24-yard reception for the game’s first touchdown, but, otherwise, there was nothing doing for him. 

“To be honest, when the run game ain’t working like that in the first half, I just kept saying on the sidelines, ‘I know the run game ain’t working, but let me at least help, let me at least try to get involved in the pass game,’ ’’ Barkley said. 

The Giants did not forget about Barkley.

In one of his more resilient performances, he finished with 84 rushing yards and two receiving touchdowns, a big reason why the Giants were able to hold it together in a 31-19 victory over the Commanders at FedEx Field to end a three-game losing streak. 

“I think over my career I’ve learned to continue to be patient and to continue to trust,’’ Barkley said. “I feel a lot of teams’ game plans coming into the game are going to be to stop the run. You definitely could feel that from the beginning.’’ 

Saquon Barkley scores during the Giants’ win over the Commanders on Nov. 19, 2023.

Yeah, you could feel that from the beginning.

The Giants had Tommy DeVito making his second NFL start and of course wanted to help the rookie out by getting Barkley going.

His first rushing attempt was a 3-yard loss. He gained 2 yards on his second run and lost 3 on his third. 

Barkley still had those minus-2 total rushing yards when, on the final play of the third quarter, he took a pitchout, ran to his left and in front of him was something he had not seen all day — green grass unoccupied by Washington defenders.

He picked up 36 yards and it was as if the pipe had burst. 

“Blocked them better,’’ coach Brian Daboll said. 

Daboll also credited “little Wan’Dale Robinson’’ as “the guy that kinda spun the whole play’’ with a well-timed block. 

Barkley early in the fourth quarter finished what he started, running away from safety Kamren Curl on a drag route across the goal line for a 5-yard scoring hookup with DeVito to make it 21-12. 

Earlier in the game, Barkley raced down the right side, ran past Jamin Davis and Curl, DeVito put the ball on the money and Barkley made the grab in the end zone for a 24-yard connection on a wheel route.

Saquon Barkley runs with the ball during the Giants' win over the Commanders on Nov. 19, 2023.
Saquon Barkley runs with the ball during the Giants’ win over the Commanders on Nov. 19, 2023.
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It was the first touchdown for the Giants in the first quarter of any game this season and it gave them a 7-0 lead. 

“That’s a route you guys saw all camp, to be honest,’’ Barkley said. “I was able to get one-on-one, I knew they were chipping me as I was coming off the release so I lined up a little wider and I was able to get one-on-one, Tommy did a good job of holding off the safety and gave me a great ball. And we made a play.’’ 

Barkley has four receiving touchdowns this season and only one rushing touchdown, which is a bit upside down. 

“Any way you can get it,’’ Barkley said “I’ll take it.’’

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