All those in blue inside MetLife Stadium held their collective breath for a few minutes midway through the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon.
Prized-rookie Saquon Barkley had landed hard on his right shoulder while getting tackled by Bears linebacker Roquan Smith and stayed down momentarily. He then went to the bench and eventually into the dreaded blue medical tent on the sideline while the Giants tried to preserve their lead without him.
Not to worry.
Barkley returned in time to save the Giants, with one of his best runs going for 29 yards on the first play of overtime as they prevailed 30-27 over the Bears.
“My shoulder’s good,” Barkley said afterward, insisting that “nothing really” happened to it. “It sucks because you want to be out there for your teammates, but you got to put your trust in the trainers and doctors in there. It was nothing really crazy. We just had to put the pads back on, fix something in the padding and go out there and play.”
When it was all over, Barkley ended up with healthy workload of 24 carries for 125 yards and three catches for 21 yards. He did not make it into the end zone, but he did much of the work to get the Giants near it on their scoring drives.
With 17 seconds left in the first half, facing a third-and-23 from his own 30, Barkley took a handoff and cut and dipped and raced his way to a 22-yard gain.
“Huge,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “It’s sort of a give-up call to just run it, and when you hand the ball to Saquon, that’s not the case.”
Barkley got out of bounds with six seconds left, allowing the Giants to pass on fourth down and then get points on Aldrick Rosas’ 57-yard field goal.
“That really won us the game,” left tackle Nate Solder said.
“In my mind, every time I touch the ball I believe I have the ability to score with the help of my teammates,” Barkley said. “We didn’t score on that play, but it was a big play.”
Barkley, who added another highlight-reel leap over safety Adrian Amos in the third quarter, also broke the Giants’ rookie rushing record, formerly held by Tuffy Leemans (830 yards). Barkley now has 954 yards on the ground with four games left.
Last week against the Eagles, Barkley went missing in the second half with only four carries. On Sunday he stayed involved, giving him 13 carries in the second half and four more in overtime, which helped win the game.
“They just kept feeding him,” Bears and former Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said, “… If he keeps this going he is going to be one of the top backs to ever play this game.”