EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - There are a lot of things wrong with the Giants' offense right now, but there's only one thing that Pat Shurmur seemed to really regret on Monday morning. When he looked back on the Giants' latest loss he saw how much they leaned on rookie running back Saquon Barkley.
And he wished he had leaned on the kid even more.
"I wish I would've called more runs," Shurmur said. "That's the reality of that, because I think the ball in Saquon's hands is a good thing."
Barkley touched the ball only 16 times on 59 plays on Sunday. He had eight balls thrown in his direction and caught six for 56 yards, which was a little low too, considering Eli Manning threw 41 passes. But it was the running game -- where Barkley had just 10 carries for 44 yards -- that Shurmur felt he failed.
Because Barkley running the football might turn out to be the not-so-secret solution to everything that ails the Giants' offense. Teams are taking away Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants' big-play receiving threats by playing a "soft zone" designed to limit yardage and keep everything in front of the coverage.
The best way to combat that?
Let Barkley make them pay.
"Run the ball," Barkley said. "That's something where I step in, where the offensive line steps in, and that's something that we've got to take personal. When we see a team playing Cover 2 and playing soft zone, that has to be disrespectful to us. And that's something we are really aware of and we hope to solve that problem really soon."
Count on it being fixed by Sunday when the Giants travel to face the Carolina Panthers, because Shurmur's admission about the run game was startling for his quickness and it's honesty on Monday. Coaches rarely admit to things like being too quick to abandon the run game. But there was no way for Shurmur to hide from it. In a game that was never really out of reach, running Barkley only 10 times was just wrong.
And running him more could have helped. Yes, his big 28-yard run skewed his stats, but a closer look shows he was fairly effective. Each of his first four runs went for four or five yards, which as Barkley pointed out on Monday is "a great football play." His last two runs each went for one yard, but they came from inside the New Orleans two-yard line and the last was a one-yard touchdown.
So really, with the exception of two third-quarter runs (one for zero, and another for a disastrous minus-7) every run turned into something good. But he still only ran the ball five times in the first half and eight times through the first three quarters.
What if he ran more? Well, consider this...
The Giants' two best offensive games were their 20-15 loss to Jacksonville on Opening Day and their win in Houston on Sept. 23. Barkley carried 18 times for 106 yards (with a 68-yard touchdown) against the Jaguars and carried 17 times for 82 yards against the Texans. In their two worst offensive games, he had 11 carries for 28 yards against the Cowboys and his 10-44 against the Saints.
And against the Saints, in particular, maybe a few more Barkley runs would've lured one of the two safeties that were sitting back in the soft zone to move closer to the line of scrimmage. It could've set up a more effective play-action game which could've resulted in Beckham seeing a little less attention or someone -- anyone -- getting free to run deep in single coverage.
It could have changed everything. And after all, isn't that why the Giants drafted Barkley in the first place? They haven't had a strong running game in years, which has resulted in the passing game crumbling.
Barkley is supposed to finally make them a two-dimensional team.
So consider it great news that Shurmur recognized his mistake and plans to more consistently feed Barkley the ball.
"If he said that, then that's something he believes," Barkley said. "And my mindset is do whatever it takes to help the team win. If that's touch the ball 10, 15 times or touch the ball 30 times, then whatever it takes."
That could turn out to be exactly what this struggling Giants offense needs.