LANDOVER, Md. — Daniel Jones has had good games this season. Saquon Barkley has had a few of them too.
But it wasn’t until Sunday that the two of them, the cornerstones of the Giants’ offensive future, were able to sync up their success. What it resulted in was not only a 41-35 overtime win over Washington at FedEx Field but top performances for both.
It showed that each is a talented player and that when they complement each other, they can be truly special.
And for the first time since they became Giants, since the franchise set a course in which they envisioned Jones and Barkley leading the organization from the malaise of the past few seasons back to prominence, the quarterback and the running back finished off a win. Together.
The last time they both started in a victory was in Tampa in Week 3, but Barkley was on crutches by the end of that one, a non-factor in the result.
“That’s kind of what they envisioned when they drafted DJ and drafted me,” Barkley said. “I think we both have the potential and the talent to play well together and open stuff up for each other and we showed that today, with the help of everyone else.”
The next decade doesn’t start for another week and a half. For the Giants after Sunday’s result, it can’t get here soon enough.
Jones threw five touchdown passes, including the game-winning 3-yarder to rookie tight end Kaden Smith with a little more than four minutes left in overtime. He completed 28 of 42 passes for 352 yards and became the first rookie in NFL history with at least 350 passing yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was Jones’ first win since Sept. 29, when he beat Washington at MetLife Stadium. It was his first career game without a turnover (though he did have a fumble in the fourth quarter that was recovered by guard Kevin Zeitler).
Pat Shurmur called it a “heroic” performance. Several times, in fact.
All Barkley did was set a franchise record for yards from scrimmage with a career-high 189 rushing and 90 receiving. He caught a 33-yard touchdown pass and scored on an electrifying 67-yard run. Just 8:02 into the game, he had rushed for 108 yards.
“It’s lovely,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said of having both parts of the offense working. “You’re clicking on all cylinders, the run is going to open up the pass, and the same thing vice versa . . . It’s a great feeling.”
Added fellow receiver Golden Tate: “When everyone is doing their job, the game kind of feels a little bit easier. I felt like we had a rhythm most of the game.”
So much so that when the Giants won the toss in overtime, most of them knew they had it in the bag even though they had blown a 14-point lead.
“It was an electrifying feeling when we won the toss,” center Jon Halapio said. “We just knew we were going to win. It was hard to explain. There was no motivational speech. We just knew that if we got the ball, we were going to win.”
Da’Mari Scott opened the drive with a 34-yard kickoff return from the goal line, Jones hit Shepard on a clutch third-and-7 pass from the Giants’ 37 for a 23-yard gain, and Barkley’s 12-yard run brought the Giants to the 2. Two plays later, Jones hit Smith for their second touchdown connection of the game.
“Four or five weeks ago, we probably would have lost this game,” Barkley said. “We found a way to win this game and it was big . . . I think this is going to help us in the future.”
Oddly, a game that felt as if it could be a stepping-stone toward next year’s success also might have diminished the Giants’ ability to improve. If the Giants had lost, they would have practically locked up the second overall pick in the April draft and with it an opportunity to select Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. Watching Washington drive 99 yards for the tying touchdown with 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter left little doubt that such a defensive playmaker is needed. Instead, Washington (3-12) likely will take that prized spot in the draft order. The Giants (4-11) will go into Week 17 projected to pick fourth.
Those wrinkles will be handled in the months to come.
There certainly were holes in the Giants’ performance — the defense was spotty, they missed a field goal and they had a punt blocked — but having the two centerpieces of the Giants’ immediate future in stride with one game left on the schedule punctuates what has been a dismal season with optimism.
“I think it’s good for us to get these things lined up a little bit better going into next year,” Pat Shurmur said. “We’ve got a chance to do some good things.”
Really, that’s all the Giants have been playing for most of this year anyway. For 2020 and beyond. In that regard, Sunday was kind of like their first victory of the season.
As a Barkley and Jones production, it actually was.