Giants running back Saquon Barkley #26 celebrates his touchdown in overtime,...

Giants running back Saquon Barkley #26 celebrates his touchdown in overtime, with wide receiver Kadarius Toney #89, to defeat the Saints 27-21 in New Orleans on Sunday. Credit: AP / Brett Duke

NEW ORLEANS

There was nothing to make you think this would be the day that Saquon Barkley would turn back into the dynamic playmaker he once was. Nothing that led you to believe that Saquon again would be . . . well, Saquon.

Six of his first-half runs went for 17 yards. The only pass he caught lost 4 yards. His first two runs in the third quarter each gained a yard. He looked tentative and uncertain, still not himself after returning from a horrific knee injury early last season. Still not the vibrant all-around running back he’d been in a transcendent rookie season in 2018 and the reliable player he’d been the next season.

And then — BOOM! — it happened.

With the Giants looking as if they’d continue their early-season unraveling and lose for the fourth straight time, Barkley hoisted the team on his back in electrifying style.

The Saints held a 21-10 edge midway through the fourth quarter and appeared firmly in control. But with 7:01 to play in regulation, Barkley lined up as a receiver to the far left of the formation, ran a deep pattern down the left sideline and caught a 54-yard touchdown pass to spark an unlikely comeback.

And after the Giants tied it at 21 at the end of regulation, it was Barkley who got into the end zone with the deciding score in a 27-21 upset at the Superdome, this time on a 6-yard run up the middle.

"The guys who see him work day-in and day-out, and how much it means to him, shared that excitement and happiness for him," said Daniel Jones, who had a brilliant afternoon with a career-high 402 passing yards. "No one deserves it more."

When it was over, a subdued Barkley came into a cramped interview room, spoke barely above a whisper in discussing his afternoon and mostly focused not on what he’d done but what his team had accomplished in battling back from an 0-3 record and what appeared to be an almost certain loss.

It might have been the most meaningful win of his career, given how dire things might have become at 0-4.

"We haven’t [previously] won a game yet this year, so for us to come out here and finish a game in a tough environment against a great defense and a great team, it means a lot," Barkley said. "We’ve just got to keep going, just keep believing in each other."

The Giants had not offered much evidence the first three weeks that this is a team worth believing in. And if they can’t follow Sunday’s thrilling comeback win with some more positive results in the weeks ahead — especially with a brutal schedule that continues next Sunday in Dallas — then this will simply be a fleeting moment of euphoria.

But if Barkley indeed is returning to the player we saw before he tore his ACL and needed the better part of a year to recover, then the Giants will be that much closer to being capable of summoning similarly worthy efforts.

He was spectacular on his long touchdown pass, beating Pro Bowl cornerback Marshawn Lattimore on his "go route" down the sideline, catching a perfectly thrown ball and then cutting to his right before scoring to make it 21-16. Jones then ran up the middle for the two-point conversion to get the Giants to within a field goal, and kicker Graham Gano tied it near the end of regulation to force overtime.

The Giants won the coin toss, with team captain Jabrill Peppers using an expletive that was heard loud and clear in the stadium and on the television broadcast. Barkley helped key the winning drive in overtime, turning a short pass into an 18-yard gain to the Saints’ 34. But he feared he might have cost his team a shot at victory on the next play when he fumbled after a 1-yard gain off another short pass. Tight end Kyle Rudolph recovered it.

"I owe Kyle Rudolph a dinner," Barkley joked.

After Jones completed a 23-yard pass to Kenny Golladay to the Saints’ 6, Barkley crashed through several Saints defenders for the score.

The Giants’ sideline erupted with joy, and after the play was reviewed for several seconds to confirm the touchdown, they ran off the field in triumph.

"Personally, it helps with your confidence to be able to make some plays out there in the game," he said. "Every single week, I can feel my knee getting better and better."

Barkley was back, and all was right for one afternoon.

The Giants hope there is more where that came from.

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