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Giants 38, Buccaneers 35 - Saquon Barkley is good, and 3 other things we learned

The Giants embarked on their first winning streak in two years

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are officially on a winning streak!

The Giants held on Sunday to top the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38-35 following a harrowing second half.

New York sprinted out to an early lead, scoring 14 unanswered points to start the game, extending their lead to 24-7 by the time the Buccaneers made a change at quarterback.

The Giants were eventually able to come out on top on the back of a fantastic day by Saquon Barkley, Eli Manning, and Odell Beckham Jr. So then, what did we learn as the Giants went on their first winning streak in two years?

Get Saquon Barkley an offensive line, he will produce

For the first time all season, the Giants were able to run the ball nearly at will. Part of that was due to some fantastic blocking on the part of Will Hernandez, and part of it was due to Saquon Barkley’s incredible balance through contact and lower-body power letting him run through (or carry) tacklers.

We got a glimpse today of just what Barkley is capable of if he gets some blocking from the offensive line, and it still feels as though he left a lot of yards on the field. That isn’t a criticism of Barkley, but rather the fact that he wasn’t as involved in the passing game as he could have been. There were still far too many passes that went horizontally, and Barkley only had 3 passes go his way (2 receptions, 10 yards, 1 TD).

The offensive line began to play better when Jamon Brown was inserted in Week 10, and they kept it up against Tampa. The line still didn’t play perfectly, and the team gave up far more pressure than it would have liked — Eli Manning was sacked four times, and the Buccaneers’ edge rushers found success against the Giants’ offensive tackles. However, the improved interior seems to be opening things up for the Giants’ offense.

If the Giants can take the next step in building their offensive line this offseason, the Giants might only be scratching the surface of Barkley’s potential.

Sloppy defense is inexcusable

The Giants just can’t do anything easily.

After a season full of games where the offense let the defense down, the Giants’ defense made this game far, far closer than it had any right to be.

  • Sloppy tackling across the board helped Peyton Barber rack up yards after contact like the game was on easy mode.
  • Olivier Vernon somehow managing to pick up a trio of penalties back-to-back-to-back.
  • Seemingly half the Giants’ defense getting hands on passes from Jameis Winston only to have the ball hit the ground.
  • Curtis Riley stumbling around with his arms out like Rocky Balboa chasing chickens as he tries to recover a fumble in the end zone which turned into a touchdown.
  • And then, of course, there were embarrassing breakdowns in coverage from players the Giants are counting on to be their best.

The Giants’ defense was the sloppiest it has been all year long, and it kept the Buccaneers in the game right up until the end. James Bettcher is a very good coach, and I can’t imagine he will let his defense feel at all good about this win.

Corey Coleman is a legitimate weapon as a returner

Coleman looked like he might be a good returner against the San Francisco 49ers. He confirmed that against the Buccaneers. Every time Coleman touched the ball on a kick-off it looke as though it might be a big play. Coleman’s speed is electric, even among the Giants’ cadre of freakishly athletic playmakers. Given any kind of seam he is able to give the Giants good starting field position.

I can’t help but feel as though a touchdown is coming for him, and sooner rather than later.

Eli Manning lives to start another game

Manning only attempted 18 passes. He completed 17 of them, with the lone incompletion coming when it appeared as though Saquon Barkley turned the wrong way and lost track of a deep pass.

Eli didn’t have to throw much with the Giants’ running game working, but he was still decisive and accurate when he did throw the ball. More importantly, there were only a few passes that were short, as Manning looked down the field more often than he had previously. Manning tied a career record in consecutive completions to begin the game and had probably the most efficient game of his career, and the Giants will certainly give him the ball next week against the Philadelphia Eagles.