Saquon Barkley takes blame for historically bad night but he had little help from Giants

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs the ball while Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds (34) defends during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley did not have a good start to his season — and that’s putting it mildly.

It was actually historically bad. 

The third-year rusher posted just six yards on 15 carries during the Giants’ 26-16 opening-night loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, becoming just the sixth player since the merger (1970) to put up less than 10 yards on at least 15 carries:

  1. Karim Abdul-Jabbar (Dolphins, 1998): 15 carries, 5 yards
  2. Saquon Barkley (Giants, 2020): 15 carries, 6 yards
  3. Emmitt Smith (Cowboys, 1998): 15 carries, 6 yards
  4. LaDainian Tomlinson (Chargers, 2005): 17 carries, 7 yards
  5. Woody Green (Chiefs, 1975): 15 carries, 9 yards
  6. Rudi Johnson (Bengals, 2007): 17 carries, 9 yards

It’s unfair to simply call it a bad night for Barkley, however. He received little to no support from his offensive line, who allowed Steelers defenders to easily foray into the Giants’ backfield before Barkley could build any sort of momentum. 

In fact, Barkley was hit 11 times in the backfield on his 15 carries.

That’s not a recipe for success, no matter which running back you have out there. 

Yet there was Barkley following the loss placing the blame squarely on his shoulders.

“I have to do better,” Barkley said (h/t Tom Rock, Newsday). “I have to do better for the team. We have to find a way to get the running game going.”

“I’m not really too concerned about the stats,” he added, showing most of his displeasure with the loss.

Barkley was always going to be up against it in Week 1 against an aggressive Steelers defense that is expected to be one of the better run-stopping units in the league this season — especially when they hone in their focus on it.

“We had a commitment and we weren’t going to be bashful about that commitment,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We thought that guy was a catalyst for whatever that they were going to do offensively.”

Hence why there were some openings for Daniel Jones to exploit Pittsburgh’s pass defense, especially when it came to his connections with Darius Slayton.

But for the Giants to have success, they’re going to need Barkley and the running game to burn the tape and get to a completely different level.

“Look, we’re going to stay aggressive with the run game,” Giants first-year head coach Joe Judge said. “Saquon is a key part of our team, he’s going to be a difference-maker in how successful this team is going to be, so we’re going to stay with him. We have a lot of confidence in him. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our offensive line… We’re going to keep leaning on these guys.”

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