Saquon Barkley tried to save Eli Manning from himself, tried to single-handedly save the Giants season.
On a night when Barkley showed you all the electrifying moves and again proved general manager Dave Gettleman right for drafting him with the second-overall pick, Manning simultaneously proved Gettleman wrong for passing on Sam Darnold, or Josh Allen, or Josh Rosen.
Barkley (13-130-1 TD rushing, 9-99 receiving) is a shining beacon of light and hope for the future. But ownership and management bet on Manning for the present, and will have lost the bet until they find their next franchise quarterback.
Because this was a night that screamed out for the Giants to find The Next Eli Manning sooner rather than later.
But too late for this sorry season.
Stick a fork in the 1-5 Giants, disgraceful 34-13 losers to the Eagles.
Because Manning, helpless again under heavy duress, was made to resemble a shot fighter, Ali at the end without the rope-a-dope, looking as if he would rather have been chopping it up with Lil Wayne than being suffocated and dominated by the Eagles defense and savaged by boobirds who haven’t enjoyed a playoff victory since Super Bowl XLVI. It was sad to watch.
Manning, asked if he was taken aback by the boobirds, said: “That’s not something I get caught up in. Hey, we gotta play better football, I understand that.”
Barkley’s legs were as breathtaking as Manning’s arm was deflating. A veritable New York Giants Deflategate.
Odell Beckham Jr. was deflated and so dehydrated he walked off the field into the tunnel that leads to the locker room with two seconds left in the half and one meaningless pass for Manning to throw.
This is one devalued $95 Million Man.
It was already Eagles 24, Giants 6 when Manning completed a 39-yard bomb to Cody Latimer with the half winding down. It was the equivalent of a squirrel finding an acorn.
Because to that point, the Giants offense was an explosive 46-yard run around right end by Barkley and a 55-yard Barkley catch-and-run where he cut sharply left, shed a pair of tackles, evaded a couple of others as he veered back to his right, accompanied the entire way by the kind of MetLife roar that was once reserved for Manning. Barkley added a 50-yard TD dash in the third quarter.
“We gotta utilize all our weapons,” Manning said.
More than one. Forget about the deep shots to the suffocated Beckham.
“They had a very good game plan, they executed it very well,” Beckham said.
Manning tried two deep passes, one under duress into double coverage. A wing and a prayer.
“I’m not concerned about Eli,” Pat Shurmur said. “Like I said, none of us did anything good enough to win tonight.”
Manning’s second throw of the night was a deflected interception over the middle for tight end Scott Simonson that set Carson Wentz up to make it 7-0. “Thought I had a chance to put it right on him,” Manning said. It was second-and-2, and Manning, who struggles to operate off-schedule, never looked to the right flat, where Barkley was open with room to operate.
“Carson Wentz does a good job off-schedule,” Shurmur said.
Manning was throwing underneath for 12 yards to Beckham … on third-and-15 from his 4 following a Michael Bennett strip-sack against Nate Solder.
“Took a couple of shots downfield, when we had opportunities, we didn’t connect on enough,” Manning said.
An illegal block in the back on Sterling Shepard set up a second-and-19, and the boobirds first let Manning hear it when he threw short to Latimer for 4 yards, followed by a 7-yard pass to Barkley on third-and-16. Boooooooo again.
“My confidence level in myself is good,” Manning said.
Proud Giants backs of yesteryear — Tiki Barber, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw — gush about Barkley, a 230-pound man with the moves of a small man.
Jacobs: “Saquon could break every record that’s held by any Giant running back that there is. But the five [offensive linemen]in front of him gotta give him opportunity to be great.”
On his way out of the locker room, I asked Barkley why this offense cannot get on track.
“That’s a great question,” Barkley said. “If it was easy to answer that question, we’ll be on track. I don’t think, I know we have the talent, I know we have the coaching staff. I just don’t know when it’s gonna click, but I’m a firm believer that it will click and it will happen.”
Manning one day will be a gold jacket guy long before Barkley gets to Canton. But on this night, Giants fans trudged to the parking lot depressed that their beloved quarterback looked more like an old jacket guy, battered all night and thoroughly beaten.