PHILADELPHIA – All around Saquon Barkley, his teammates were not-so-subtly throwing the Giants coaches under the bus for a second-half collapse in a 25-22 loss to the Eagles that ended the faint hopes this team had of salvaging the 2018 season.
"I do not call the plays. I just do what I'm told to do," receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said, who sounded like he wanted call up Lil Wayne and air some more dirty laundry for an ESPN feature. "I would have loved to have attacked them, but it was not in our game plan."
Sterling Shepard went even further than that, insisting that the Eagles coaches had made better halftime adjustments than the men in charge on the Giants sideline while encouraging reporters to "go back and watch the film" if they want to see the proof.
Finger pointing. Cracks forming. The frustration from falling to 3-8 despite dominating the first half of this game was bubbling over for an offense that recognizes it should be much, much better than this.
The rookie running back was diplomatic as usual following the latest loss, and given his demeanor in his career so far, that should not surprise anyone. But he was the one player who should have been standing on the stool in front of the locker and demanding, to borrow the words from Keyshawn Johnson, that the Giants get him the damn ball.
Then again, he did not have to. He said that with his play on the field, and yet somehow, head coach Pat Shurmur managed to marginalize his best player in a situation that begged for him to put the game in his hands and let him carry the Giants to victory.
"When we knock ourselves off with penalties and then sacks and then all that bad stuff, then you get off schedule trying to get the ball to Saquon and Odell and the guys that need to touch it," Shurmur said.
It sounded good, but the coach had far more to do with Barkley's disappearance than the Eagles, his team's sloppy play or any other factor. Here are the damning numbers from Barkley's afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, which only tell part of the story:
Nine carries, 94 yards, one touchdown
Six receptions, 37 yards, one touchdown
Four carries, seven yards
One reception, four yards
The Giants, remember, had a 19-3 lead in the first half thanks to a brilliant 51-yard touchdown run from Barkley. It was his third scoring run of 50 yards or more in his first 11 games, which only matches the entire total for this franchise in the previous 10 years.
Shurmur's questionable decisions doom Giants
He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and the best bet this team had to protect and / or build on a lead against a wounded Philadelphia defense. But after handing the ball to him twice on the first drive of the second half, Barkley had just two more touches the entire game.
"I know everyone wants to be a coach and think they know what to call, but they know what they're doing, and they put us in the right position to win," Barkley said. "If I carry ball 20 times, if I carry the ball three times, (it does not matter) as long as we win the game. We just did not finish this game. That's the difference."
Shurmur, meanwhile, seemed content with his star running back's 20 touches on the day, pointing out that backup Wayne Gallman "went in there and ran the ball well" and that the penalties that sabotaged the Giants offense "had nothing to do with the running back. "
But why was Gallman getting an entire series early in the second half in the first place? Barkley is 21. It's not as if Shurmur – who said he wanted to "spell him a bit" – had to worry about keeping him fresh for a more important game, because the next meaningful one for this franchise will now happen next September .
The Giants used the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft on Barkley this spring because they believed he is a "generational player" and, much to their delight, discovered over the first 10 games that he is everything they could have hoped for as a rookie and more.
He had 27 carries for 142 yards in a win last week against Tampa Bay, and his success running the ball clearly made the entire Giants offense – including quarterback Eli Manning – far better. Barkley has carried the ball more than 17 times in four games. The Giants have won three of them.
Coincidence? I do not think so.
Despite having a second-half lead on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Giants had a run-pass ratio of 18 to 37. They put the game on Manning's shoulders, and the 37-year-old quarterback passed for just 61 yards in the second half.
Barkley should be the focal point of this offense in every game, but somehow, that is not the case. The rookie is not about to stand up and demand that he gets the the damn ball. That's not his style.
But given how much better this team performs when it's in his hands, should he really have to?