It wasn’t just the one that got away. It was the only one that got away.
A wide-open Saquon Barkley dropped a potential touchdown pass from Eli Manning down the right sideline late in the second quarter of the Giants’ 38-35 victory over the Bucs on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The pigskin was right there for the plucking and Barkley had nothing but daylight ahead of him on the way to the end zone. But the rookie running back got his feet tangled up and missed the catch.
It was Manning’s only incomplete pass as he hit on 17 of 18 attempts for 231 yards and two touchdowns. You will really have to pore over the game films to find another mistake by Barkley, who ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries and caught a 6-yard pass for the game’s first score.
“I definitely owe Eli something because he would have had a perfect day,” Barkley said. “I’ve caught that ball multiple times in practice. I work on that catch every day and every time we warm up for a game, and I wasn’t up to my standards there, so I definitely owe him something.”
Said Manning: “I just missed him. I have to look at it on film. Just a combination of both, I could probably throw it a little better and see when he is looking back to make sure he is not looking too late. We have to be able to hit that one. That was a big third down.”
Barkley set career highs in carries, rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns. It was his third game with at least 100 rushing yards. The only other time he’s gained more total yards as a pro was when he ran for 130 and added 99 receiving yards against the Eagles in a Week 6 defeat.
And Barkley thinks he’s only getting better with age.
“I’ll never be satisfied at where I’m at,” he said. “I do feel like I’m getting better throughout the year. Things are coming clearer to me. I can see the field a lot better. Understanding the game even better with the help of Eli and those vets on the team. But still got ways, ways, ways to improve.”
Barkley caught his third touchdown pass of the season to give the Giants a 7-0 lead, then capped a 12-play, 95-yard drive with a 5-yard run to make it 14-0 in the first quarter. He added a 2-yard touchdown run with 3:52 left in the fourth quarter to give the Giants (3-7) a 38-28 advantage. They finished it off to give Barkley his first home win in five tries as a pro.
“The difference in these wins is we’re executing,” Barkley said. “We’re finishing games, we’re finishing drives, and that’s what we wanted to do in the first half of the season. But we weren’t executing. Coach put a highlight reel of the plays we just missed, and that’s how close we were. And that’s how close we know we are. These last few games, we’re the opposite of that.”
Barkley had his ninth game in 10 with at least 100 yards from scrimmage. He also became the first Giants rookie since Butch Woolfolk in 1982 with both a touchdown run and a touchdown catch in a game.
“It’s a huge luxury,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s an outstanding player, and when you can throw it to him and hand it to him, that makes things terrific. He’s had a positive contribution in our three victories, and he’s gotten better in each of the other games. It’s great for the New York football Giants if Saquon’s with us.”
In the 10th game of his rookie season, Saquon Barkley posted career highs for carries, yards and TDs. His workhorse day:
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