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Workhorse Saquon Barkley gets 25 touches, calls it 'a grind'

The rookie running back makes a Giants-record 14 catches for 80 yards, plus 11 carries for 28 yards.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs past Cowboys

Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs past Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie during the first half of the Giants' 20-13 loss Sunday night, Sept. 16, 2018, in Arlington, Texas.   Photo Credit: AP/Ron Jenkins

ARLINGTON, Texas — Saquon Barkley touched the ball 25 times in the Giants’ 20-13 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night, including a team-record 14 receptions. But afterward he would not so much as acknowledge being tired.

Frustrated? Perhaps. Tired? No.

“I didn’t feel like I had that many touches, to be quite honest,” he said after spending nearly five minutes at his locker, motionless, with a white towel over his head. “I don’t even know how many touches I had. It just felt like football . . . It’s going to be a grind.”

It is not supposed to be this much of a grind.

Many of the rookie back’s 14 receptions for 80 yards — none of which gained more than 18 — were the result of checkdowns from Eli Manning when the Cowboys' defense sought to take away deep passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and others.

“You’d rather him not be catching all those checkdowns, which he did,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s a battler, and with the ball in his hands is a good thing. Whenever you’re throwing a lot of checkdowns like that, there’s a reason for it.”

Barkley’s 11 rushes totaled only 28 yards. So that’s 108 yards on 25 touches. That is not good for a player with his explosiveness.

“That’s just part of football, part of being a running back,” he said of his long, busy night. “The defense is going to do a great job. It’s the NFL. You have to give credit where credit is due . . . They’re a fast-flowing team, especially when I caught the ball outside the backfield. They flow to the ball really well. That was very impressive.”

Barkley was uninterested in the fact that he broke Tiki Barber’s 18-year-old team record for receptions in a game, which had been 13.

“It doesn’t matter at all to me,” he said. “We didn’t win today, so it doesn’t matter to me.”

Barkley said his heavy workload was a result of adapting to what the defense was doing.

“We don’t have scripted how many times I’m supposed to touch the ball or how many times anyone else is supposed to touch the ball,” he said. “It kind of just happens. It kind of just flows.

“Obviously, we have big threats on our team downfield and the Cowboys wanted to take that away, and when that happens, you have to go through your progression.”

Manning said: “I thought Saquon did a good job in the pass game tonight, had some nice catches, had some nice big plays in chunks. We’ll keep using that and get him in the passing game and get the ball in his hands.”

Barkley said his emotions were no different than if the offense had been productive and the defense had struggled.

"I’d feel the same way even if we put 60 points on the board and lost,” he said. “Any time you lose, it [stinks] . . . It’s a long season. I know that sounds cliche. We have some time to figure it out, but we have to figure it out quickly.”

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