From the beginning of the New York Giants’ 29-3 loss to the Chicago Bears at Solider Field on Sunday afternoon, the game plan was clear:
Run the ball.
Running backs Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker rushed for a combined 40 times for 161 yards, their second-highest total of the season. The 40 attempts were a season-high and the most the Giants have had since they ran the ball 42 times against Cincinnati on Nov. 29, 2020.
Barkley, who is in his fourth season in the league, led the Giants with a season-high 102 rushing yards on 21 carries for an average of 4.9 yards per attempt. It was the first 100-yard game by a Giants running back since Wayne Gallman rushed for 135 yards against the Seahawks on Dec. 6, 2020.
“I think the o-line did a tremendous job of opening holes for me and Book (Devontae Booker),” Barkley said after the game. “But as an offense collectively, as a whole, we just didn’t do enough to get the job done and we’ve just got to be better.”
The Bears figured out the Giants’ game plan fairly quick but Joe Judge said that Barkley turned in a strong performance.
“I thought Saquon did good things,” Judge said after the game.” A couple times they had him in the backfield with some blitzes or pressures, he was able to slip out and make something out of nothing at certain times. I thought he ran hard, I thought he ran with good ball security, I thought he went out there and really played as a good team player today and fought to the end.”
The Giants passed the ball just 11 times for 24 yards - the lowest total in the NFL this season.
“I don’t think you’re in the game with the mindset like, ‘Dang, we can’t pass the ball,’ Barkley said. “Obviously, you see where the game’s going. Obviously, getting behind, but like I said, as a whole offense we didn’t do enough in the run game or the pass game. As a whole, we didn’t do enough to get the job done and that’s just the end of story.”
For Barkley, the return to Soldier Field was significant because it is where he tore his ACL in 2020, a season in which he played in only two games. Barkley also missed Weeks 6-10 this season with an ankle injury.
For these reasons, it was and continues to be important to Barkley to play in the Giants’ final two games of the season, even though the team was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention following the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
“At the end of the day I know it’s the league, but I still love this game, so me sitting out and not going out there and trying to compete for my brothers, it’s nonsense to me,” Barkley said. “Coming here and to be able to have a 100-yard game and kind of come to the place where the injury happened and kind of made my career go backwards a little bit, it does feel good. It feels like a monkey came off my back to come to the spot where everything felt like it went downhill. Personally, to be able to get a run game going and especially with the help of the offensive line, who did a great job today, I’m appreciative of those guys up front for continuing to believe in me.”
Despite the loss - the fifth in a row for the Giants as the team fell further to 4-12 on the season - Barkley spoke to the character in the locker room.
“I think you’ve got guys that come to work every single day – win, loss, draw, win by 40, lose by 40, that come to work and fight and that’s all you can ask for on both sides of the ball and special teams, too,” Barkley said. “Obviously, we’re not getting the results we would like, but it’s tough to find teams that are at this point 4-12 or whatever we are, and the culture and the locker room is still being carried on and we’re still staying together as a team.
“If anything, this will bring us closer. Like I said I think earlier in the week, I have faith in this organization and this team and those players in the locker room and it’s been tough times, especially personally for me, being here four years there have been tough times. But the right guys, the right guys are in this locker room, and I truly believe that just based off their character, based off their work ethic, based off of the talent that they have. Obviously, we would love for it to be different this year, but sometimes we’ve just got to keep sticking with it and keep believing and keep trusting the process.”
During Barkley’s time with the Giants, he has experienced four losing seasons. Despite seeing the lowest of the low’s up close, he said that this team is different from the losing teams of the past.
“Being in the same position, whether it’s 2019 or whether it’s now, guys are coming to work every single day fighting for each other,” Barkley said. “That’s all we have, that’s all we got. We have nothing to lose, just got to go out there and fight for each other...I’m in the locker room and I can tell you directly and honestly and truthfully, the love of the game from those guys in the locker room and the passion that they have, the culture that we have and the belief that we continue to have in each other is amazing.”
This Giants team has been set back in unprecedented ways though, breaking records for all of the wrong reasons. The three points scored today were the fewest scored by the Giants in Judge’s two season as a coach. The Giants did not score a touchdown for the third time this season and the third time in the last five games.
“It’s going to change at some point,” Barkley said. “It’s going to. The script is going to flip. It tells a lot about a man and his character when it hits the fan and it’s easy to give up, it’s easy to point fingers. That’s the easy thing to do especially when things aren’t going your way, but the fact that the guys in the locker room are keeping their head high and continuing to believe in each other and continuing to fight for each other, to me, I think that’s amazing.”
Though Barkley continues to have faith in the Giants players and locker room, he knows that the on-field results need to change in order for there to be progress. He said that continuing to work will help turn this last-place Giants team around.
“Just take one step forward, that’s all we can do,” Barkley said. “Obviously, especially on the offensive side of the ball we’ve got to execute better, put more points up to give us a fighting chance, and that’s collectively as a whole. We’ve got to do better, but we’ve got one more game left to try to finish the season off strong. That’s all we can do is continue to believe in it, continue fighting and take one step forward.”