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Saquon Barkley’s playoff debut a solid start toward Giants legacy

MINNEAPOLIS — Saquon Barkley’s first career playoff game was a good start toward the greatness he envisions. 

Used mostly as a complement to a passing attack that has been at its most aggressive all season in two matchups with the Vikings and Daniel Jones’ legs on zone-read runs, Barkley still made an impact with an almost-even rushing and receiving split of his 109 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns on his 14 touches in a 31-24 upset victory against the NFC’s No. 3 seed

Similar to how this surprising Giants season started, head coach Brian Daboll made a gutsy call late in a game. In Week 1, he gave the ball to Barkley on a two-point conversion that set up an upset of the Titans. All these weeks later, he allowed Daniel Jones to run a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1 at the 7-yard line in a tie game. 

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) passes the ball off to running back Saquon Barkley (26) during their Wild Card game against the Vikings on Jan. 15, 2023.
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) hands the ball off to running back Saquon Barkley (26) during their Wild Card game against the Vikings on Jan. 15, 2023.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Jones moved the chains and two plays later, Barkley powered into the end zone to put the Giants ahead, 31-24, with less than eight minutes remaining. He was stood up at the 1-yard line but churned those trademark bulky quads to get across the goal line just before his knee touched the ground. 

Barkley spent part of his week looking up the playoff records of Eric Dickerson (248 rushing yards in a playoff game) and Emmitt Smith (1,586 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns in 17 career playoff games) for extra motivation to be at his best

“As a player, as a competitor you want these moments — this is the stuff you dream about as a kid,” Barkley said leading into the game. “Playing in the playoffs, going to a hostile environment; it’s loud, making big plays and silencing the crowd.” 

Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs with the ball against the Vikings on Jan. 15, 2023.
Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs with the ball against the Vikings on Jan. 15, 2023.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST
Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first quarter of a Wild Card game against the Vikings on Jan. 15, 2023.
Giants running back Saquon Barkley runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first quarter of a Wild Card game against the Vikings on Jan. 15, 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

A pin drop could be heard in U.S. Bank Stadium by the end. 

Barkley joined the short list of running backs whose first career playoff carry went for a long touchdown when he took a toss left, let Andrew Thomas, pulling center Jon Feliciano and receiver Isaiah Hodgins set up blocks to spring him for a 28-yard score. Barkley showed the acceleration that was questioned at times during the long second half of his career-best season (1,312 rushing yards). 

But offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, who kept the Vikings guessing all game, only gave Barkley six carries through the first three quarters, sometimes using him as a decoy with backup Matt Breida in to fight for short yardage. Perhaps Kafka heard his team’s unselfish star this past week. 

Giants running back Saquon Barkley heads off the field following a Wild Card win over the Vikings on Jan. 15, 2023.
Giants running back Saquon Barkley heads off the field following a Wild Card win over the Vikings on Jan. 15, 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“I want the ball as many times as needed to win this game. Whatever I’ve got to do. That’s been my motto throughout the entire season and I’m sticking with it. If it’s 40-50 then it’s 40-50. If it’s 0-5, then it’s 0-5.” 

The answer was 14. With more to come next week.

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