EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Saquon Barkley recently did some research, studying the NFL record book as if he were preparing for a game.
The New York Giants running back was curious as to what some of the greatest players at his position accomplished in the playoffs. He sat wide-eyed as names such as Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson, Franco Harris and John Riggins jumped off the page — all Pro Football Hall of Famers who cemented their marks when it counted most.
Barkley hopes to run his way onto those lists someday as one of the game’s all-time best.
“You’ve got to do it in both — regular season and postseason — throughout your whole career,” Barkley said this week. “There’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs, but you’ve got to try to be a consistent player.
“You want to create a legacy. You look at all the Giants greats — they did it in the postseason.”
The 25-year-old Barkley got his first taste of playoff football in his fifth season with the Giants, helping New York to a 31-24 victory in Minnesota last Sunday. He ran for two touchdowns, gained 53 yards on nine carries and also caught five passes for 56 yards.
Barkley could add to his postseason numbers Saturday night in the Giants’ NFC divisional round game against the Eagles in Philadelphia.
“Yeah, that’s extra motivation, but when you’re looking back and actually playing in my first playoff game — there’s nothing that even comes to mind,” Barkley said. “You’re just so locked in, so focused because every play, every quarter is so crucial. The situation becomes so critical because it’s one game. If you don’t take care of one game, you go home. That’s really what pushes you — your competitive nature just goes to a whole another level.
“Your intensity just rises because of the nature of the game.”
Barkley led the NFC in rushing during the regular season, finishing fourth in the league with a career-high 1,312 yards. He was a workhorse early with 20 or more rushing attempts six times in the Giants’ first nine games while they tried to find consistency on offense.
“I never thought I had to do everything,” Barkley said. “I think it speaks to the coaching staff, to the players. Our identity changed throughout the season. We’re a team that can run the ball 30, 40 times. We’ve done that. We’re a team that can throw the ball 40 times.
“I feel it speaks to myself as a versatile player. I can run in between the tackles. I feel like if you give me a space, I can be dangerous in space and help us out there.”
Barkley’s role changed in the second half of the season when Daniel Jones emerged as one of the game’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. It lifted some of the workload off Barkley and made the Giants an even more dangerous and productive offense.
Against the Vikings, Jones actually out-carried Barkley 17-9 and outgained him on the ground by 25 yards while setting a franchise postseason record for yards rushing by a quarterback.
It could be a different story Saturday night against Philadelphia’s stout defensive line, which has helped power a pass rush that generated 70 sacks during the regular season — third most in NFL history.
“They’re hard to block,” coach Brian Daboll said. “They can stop the run. They’ve got a lot of really good players. They use them well.”
That could make Barkley the X-factor against the Eagles because of his ability to do so many things out of the backfield. But he hasn’t run for more than 92 yards in the five games he has played against Philadelphia since two 100-yard performances against them as a rookie in 2018.
“You’ve got to be above the Xs and O’s,” Barkley said. “They’re going to scheme it up to get you one-on-one and you’ve got to find a way to create the extra yards. Whether it’s the toss (move) or spin or using speed or whatever, I feel like that’s what separates me from a lot of other backs. And hopefully I can continue to show that throughout the rest of the playoffs.”
Barkley’s future with the Giants beyond Saturday night is uncertain because he’s scheduled to be a free agent this offseason. None of that matters to him now, though.
It’s all about adding to his Giants legacy Saturday night — and helping deliver another playoff win.
“I’m chillin’,” Barkley said. “I’m just locked in. That’s really it.”
NOTES: OLB Azeez Ojulari (quadriceps) was listed as questionable on the Giants’ final injury report Thursday after he was limited at practice. … S/LB Landon Collins (ankle), WR Isaiah Hodgins (ankle), S Julian Love (hamstring) and CB Fabian Moreau (hip) were limited but expected to play.
New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley warms up before an NFL wild card football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)