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Giants' Saquon Barkley finally looks like himself again

Saquon Barkley of the Giants runs the ball

Saquon Barkley of the Giants runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Saquon Barkley had grown weary of the questions.

Why were his rushing totals down? Could his ankle still be hindering him?

He ran for at least 100 yards seven times last season on the way to rushing for 1,307 yards and being named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. Then he posted 100-yard games for the Giants in the first two weeks of this season. But after returning from a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 3 that cost him three games, he wasn't the same running back.

Finally, in Week 15, he was back above the 100-yard mark. Barkley carried 24 times for 112 yards — a strong average of 4.7 yards per carry — and two touchdowns in the Giants’ 36-20 win over Miami on Sunday at MetLife Stadium that snapped their losing streak at nine games.

“The only thing that means something is a win,” Barkley said. “I don’t care how we get it.”

But there was no need to ask those questions about him.

“I’ve been tired of that,” he said. “After the bye week [in mid-November], there’s no excuse anymore. I felt like I showed flashes in Chicago and Philly and Green Bay … We weren’t behind [this time]. We didn't go away from the run … We had a nice long drive where you just see the wear and tear [on the defense].”

On Thursday, he said he thought that after coming back from the injury, he was unwittingly protecting himself while running, but  he also said he is feeling good now. This effort put him at 722 yards with two games left and sent him past 2,000 for his career.

“I know he’s been itching for a big day,” Sterling Shepard said. “It was good to see him out there running around, getting back to how he does things. That’s the best running back in the league.”

The Giants (3-11) hadn’t run for a TD since Barkley did it in Week 7. He scored from the 1 and the 10 against Miami.

“I had a great game,” Barkley said. “The O-line played lights out, gave Eli [Manning] time and opened up holes for me … Just all around, we were consistent. The last nine games that we lost, we were an inconsistent team.”

This might have been Manning’s final home start or final game, period. That was a motivating factor.

“I wanted to go out there and play my tail off, and I know those guys wanted to do the same, too, for number 10,” Barkley said. “He’s meant so much to this city and this franchise for such a very long time. He’s a special person, a special player. If that is the way he gets sent off, I’m glad we were able to do it in a win.”

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