The Giants, though, needed a touchdown and they had an opportunity to get one. Having driven from their own 25-yard line the Giants faced a third-and-2 at the Dallas 8-yard line. They gained a yard on a dive play to fullback Elijhaa Penny. Knowing a field goal was useless, they went for it on fourth-and-1. Rolling right, Eli Manning could find no one to throw to, got sacked and fumbled the ball away, more or less ending the Giants’ hopes.
The common denominator on both plays? Neither one was designed to get the ball to the Giants’ best player, Saquon Barkley.
“As a competitor, you want the ball in your hands. But you’ve got to trust the system. You’ve got to trust your teammates. That’s what I do. I’m not going to question the calls. I believe the calls are right,” Barkley said. “As a team, especially on offense, we have to find a way to capitalize and convert that third down and convert that fourth down and find a way to get in the end zone. Things like that, if we are able to do them, could make it a totally different game. Those are things you learn from, go back and you watch and improve on.”
Questioning that decision was left to everyone else. Twitter, of course, obliged.
Third and short, fourth and short, Saquon Barkley doesn't touch the ball. Can't happen. Stop using him as a decoy.— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) September 8, 2019
So the Giants had two chances to pick up two yards on third and fourth down and didn’t let Saquon Barkley touch it either play. Bold strategy.— Sean Conroy (@seannyc13) September 8, 2019
Coach Pat Shurmur wasn’t second-guessing either of the play calls.
“No,” he said when asked if he had second thoughts. “We should gain more yards on the one to Penny and then we’ve got to do something with the ball we roll out.”
Barkley had 120 yards rushing, but only 11 rushing attempts. This, quite obviously, isn’t enough.
“Games play out differently,” Shurmur said. “ I think he had really good production when he touched the ball.”
To be fair to Shurmur, Dallas did have the ball for more than 11 minutes in the second quarter, and with the lopsided score running the ball was pointless for much of the second half.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to help my team to win games … I’m a team player. I don’t care how many times I touch the ball. The question is going to be ‘if I got 11 carries, I need the ball more?’ but ‘if I got 40 carries, oh am I worried that I got the ball too much?’,” Barkley said. “I don’t think we’re going to win in that situation there. So, my mindset is to continue to get better and however many touches I do get, try to make the most of it to help my team win. I didn’t do that today and we didn’t do that today.”