Saquon Barkley said when he and the offense trotted off the field after a three-and-out possession that took just 23 seconds off the clock late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Eagles and very nearly spoiled the game for the entire team, he had no doubt that the Giants were going to hang on and win.
"We know the defense is going to do it," he said of their collective mindset at that tenuous point in the game. "We have one of the best defenses in the league."
He was proved correct in that faith. The defense, as it did throughout the day, rose to stop the Eagles from scoring the potential game-winning touchdown and the Giants celebrated a 13-7 victory.
If you ask any of the defensive players, they’d undoubtedly say the offense gave them enough with which to work. A touchdown and a couple of field goals? We can make that stick, they’d likely respond.
The reality is that while Sunday went almost entirely according to plan for the Giants – a blueprint that involved forcing the Eagles to throw the ball, taking advantage of takeaway opportunities, limiting their own transgressions and trying to squeeze as many points as they can from a parched offense – it’s not a plan that is sustainable for many wins in the NFL.
To keep winning, the Giants need to keep searching for ways to put up more points.
On Monday, they were at work trying to figure that out. Joe Judge said the offensive coaches — the collective that he has pulled together to replace ousted coordinator Jason Garrett — already was scheming up the best way to face the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday.
They figure to put even more of their thumbprints on the unit by then.
"As we go through the remainder of the season, there’s going to be a little bit of an evolution," Judge said of the post-Garrett offense that was flung together during a short and tumultuous few days leading up to the Eagles game but now has some time to settle in. "With the usage of our players and the personalities of some of our coaches within the play-calling and building of the game plans, that will probably come out. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s going to be flipped on its head immediately. But over the course of time, that will naturally take place."
Judge said there were things he liked about the new-but-not-yet-improved offensive system. He thought the communication went well, he liked how they got players involved, and he was happy with the number of plays they pushed the ball down the field a bit (eight plays of at least 17 yards, he noted, without saying that only one of them went for more than 20). He was happy they took two shots at Kenny Golladay in the end zone, even though neither resulted in a touchdown (one, Judge indicated, should have been flagged for pass interference).
That, though, was just the start. And now that the Giants have a full traditional week to prepare for the Dolphins, more changes will come.
"Having a normal week does allow a lot more freedom to get in there and dig into some different things," Judge said. "Obviously, last week was a transition week, the first week of doing this for the coaches as well as the players, so we couldn’t go in there and radically change too much.
There are some little things we found schematically to make a difference. In a short week, it’s not realistic to just flip everything over."
It doesn’t mean the Giants' offense suddenly will go from averaging 11.5 points and a touchdown per game since the bye to the kind of unit that can run up the score on opponents just because they have an extra 36 or so hours between games. As Judge said, it will take time.
But there is an awareness that what the Giants are producing offensively isn’t enough and has to change quickly.
"We’re going to try to score as many points as we can as an offense," Judge said. "Some weeks it may be more than others, but it doesn’t mean we’ll ever be satisfied with not scoring a lot of points."
It’s certainly nice to have a defense around that can keep the Giants in games and, as was the case on Sunday, lead them to victories when they aren’t able to put those points up. But just as Barkley knew the defense would come through on Sunday, Judge knows relying on them to do it for the rest of the season is a foolhardy pursuit.
"We have to keep trying to score more points," he said.
The evolution toward that goal continues.