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Shurmur: Giants can still attain their goals

Head coach Pat Shurmur of the New York

Head coach Pat Shurmur of the New York Giants looks on in the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on September 9, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Getty Images/Mike Lawrie

Pat Shurmur had a message for what has already slipped through the Giants’ fingers this season, and it resonated with at least one of the players.

“Coach said something perfect,” rookie RB Saquon Barkley said. “He said the only thing that we’re not capable of doing this season is an undefeated season, and that only happened one time. I don’t know if everybody expects to win every single game, but you’re most likely not going to win every single game.”

True. But now the Giants need to start winning some of them. At 1-3, the Giants are in real danger of falling into oblivion with a difficult stretch of games that begins Sunday against the Panthers.

“The season is obviously not over,” Barkley said. “It’s a long season but you can’t say it’s a long season forever because you get to a point where you get redundant and you keep saying that, then there’s no chance for you to make the playoffs. Everything that we still want, all of our goals, are still in reach.”

Except, of course, for the one.

DEFENDING THE RUN

Stopping the run was supposed to be something the Giants would be good at this season. Through four weeks, though, they rank 27th in the NFL allowing 126.0 yards per game. So what gives?

According to the Giants, it’s a function of some very long runs (like last week’s 49-yard touchdown by Alvin Kamara) and a lot of yardage by opposing quarterbacks. The Giants have allowed 13 runs of 10 or more yards this season. Six of them have come from quarterbacks.

“I think down-to-down we’re doing a pretty good job on the basic runs,” Pat Shurmur said. “Some of the end of the game runs… that skews it some. They’re battling. I think we’re getting better at our run fits.”

Kamara ran for 134 yards and three TDs against the Giants. It was the most rushing yardage against the Giants since Oct. 25, 2015, when Dallas’ Darren McFadden ran for 134 yards and one touchdown in a 27-20 Giants victory. Kamara was the first Giants opponent to rush for at least three touchdowns since Nov. 9, 2014, when Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch ran for four.

Now the Panthers enter Sunday’s game with the league’s top rushing offense, averaging 166.0 yards per game.

“Our run defense is really good,” a defiant Landon Collins said. “We just have to play sound and continue playing sound throughout the whole game. If we do that, we’ll be all right.”

X-FACTOR: CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY

Another week, another dual-threat in the backfield . . . or wherever else the Panthers decide to line up Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers’ second-year running back is second in the NFL in rushing yards per game (90.3) and second in yards from scrimmage (142.7). The only player ahead of him is Kamara. “It’s an interesting set of dynamics now,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “I think we’re still feeling our way around this, as to who Christian is for us and who he can continue to be for us. I think that’s probably the biggest thing we have going for us, is that the guy is an explosive player, he’s a tremendous playmaker, and he takes a lot of pressure off a lot of other guys around him.”

YOUTH IS SERVED

Saquon Barkley is the very visible face of this year’s rookie class with the Giants, but the team is also pleased with the progress being made by its second- and third-round picks.

Pat Shurmur said LG Will Hernandez played his best game as a pro last week.

“Part of it is just playing more and more,” Shurmur said. “Some people say you need 5,000 snaps before you get into it. He didn’t have the benefit of that. He’s getting better . . . We just hope it just continues to go like it is.”

On the other side of the ball, DT B.J. Hill has also opened eyes. In fact, possibly more so.

“B.J. is a fine football player and he’s playing better than what you would expect from a rookie,” Shurmur said. “He’s tough, he’s competitive, he’s got really good instincts, and he plays hard. When you’ve got a guy on the inside of the defense that plays hard and plays tough, they find a way to contact the ball and I think he’s done a good job.”

BARKLEY: HISTORIC START?

Saquon Barkley has a chance to do what only two others in NFL history have accomplished: Begin a career with five straight games of at least 100 scrimmage yards. His 100 yards last week tied him with two others for having done it in the first four games.

The players with the most consecutive games of at least 100 scrimmage yards to begin their career:

                                                                            4-game                Consecutive

Player, Team                                      Year           total yds.            100+ yd. games

Kareem Hunt, Chiefs                        2017             659                             7

Adrian Peterson, Vikings                  2007             549                             5

Saquon Barjkley, Giants                   2018             453                             4

Billy Sims, Lions                              1980             745                             4

LaDanian Tomlinson, Chargers        2001            478                              4

KEY NUMBERS

87: Players who have caught a regular-season pass from Eli Manning after WR Russell Shepard and TE Scott Simonson caught their first passes last week.

3: Consecutive years in which the Panthers have won the game coming off their bye week, as they are doing on Sunday.

27: Rushing yards needed by Cam Newton to pass Randall Cunningham for the most rushing yardage by a quarterback with a single team. Cunningham had 4,482 yards with the Eagles. Michael Vick holds the record for most total rushing yards by a quarterback regardless of team with 6,109.

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