LANDOVER, Md. — This is how you overcome no Odell Beckham Jr.:
You get the football gods to serve up Santachise — aka Mark Sanchez — to quarterback a depleted Redskins team that looks ready to quit on the playoffs.
And you give the ball to Saquon Barkley.
“I was actually talking to Connor Barwin about it. He’s probably in my top three or four guys that I’ve played with, and I’ve played with a lot of Hall of Famers already — DeMarcus Ware, Peyton Manning — and he’s right up there. … I’m just as amazed, and he’s only a rookie,” Giants wide receiver and former Bronco Bennie Fowler told The Post.
For the New York Football Giants, this was The Perfect Storm that gave them an opportunity to evaluate rookie Kyle Lauletta at the start of the fourth quarter.
For the Redskins, this was Capitol Punishment, an opportunity for the world to again ask: Why the hell didn’t you guys call Colin Kaepernick?
For the surging 5-8 Giants, a laugher at last, 40-0 after three quarters and 40-16 at the end, and nary a Buttfumble from Santachise (6-for-14, 38 yards, two interceptions, a 10.7 rating before he was mercifully yanked for Josh Johnson).
Barkley: first Giants rookie to break 1,000 yards rushing; first Giants rookie to score 13 touchdowns.
Saquon Barkley: The answer to Eli Manning’s long-lost play-action prayers.
Barkley finished with 170 yards on 12 carries to along with four receptions for 27 yards … even before he got to watch Wayne Gallman in the fourth quarter.
All this after Barkley apologized to the entire offense for dropping a pass in the left flat to sabotage Eli Manning’s second series.
“I’ll make up for it, I promise you guys,” Barkley told them.
It was 10-0 for the Giants when Barkley dashed through a hole on the left side and, chased futilely by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, took it to the house for the killer 78-yard touchdown.
After giving credit to the coaches, to the offensive line, to a block by Sterling Shepard, Barkley finally got around to himself.
“The guy took a bad angle, and I was able to use my speed,” he said.
It was Giants 24, Redskins 0 following a second gift from Santachise when Barkley started left, then cut right on a dime for a 52-yard gain to the 6 to set up 31-0.
“Anytime I touch the ball, I think I’m taking it the distance, to be honest,” Barkley said and smiled. “But that play — can we talk about Shep’s block on that play? First and foremost, the O-line did a great job, our tight ends did a great job on that scheme that we had there of giving me a hole, and I got one-on-one with a guy again, was able to cut it back. I’m running and I’m trying to react to how I’m about to set this dude up, and all I see is Shep just fly by — Boom! — just killed the guy, and I’m literally like mid-run, and I’m like, ‘Whoa!’ ”
His answer tells you all you need to know about why his coaches and teammates love him.
“His leadership, his energy, the way he runs off on guys, the way he pushes guys, that’s something special,” Evan Engram said. “He has that play-changing ability anytime he touches the ball. When you have that, and you have the character he has and the leadership he has, it all correlates and that drives this team, that drives guys to play harder.”
Barkley has caught 78 passes and was just as upset that he didn’t take 79 to the train back home as he was by not scoring a second touchdown.
“The drop still bothers me,” he said. “I pride myself on being a running back that catches the ball out of the backfield. I took my eyes off of it.”
If you dare take your eyes off him, you will miss something amazing.
“We knew that obviously Odell is the best wide receiver in the league, and one of the best players wasn’t gonna be able to play, but you can’t stop,” Barkley said. “We gotta find a way to win, and at the end of the day, we were able to.”
They have honored Pat Shurmur’s “Play for each other” mantra. The offense played for Beckham. The defense played for Landon Collins.
“We found our why,” Barkley said. “Why we’re playing. It’s for each other. At the end of the day, that’s all we got, is each other. We can’t listen to anyone else, ’cause whether you play good or you’re playing bad, everyone will have something good or bad to say about you anyway, so we gotta continue to focus on each other, and getting better with each other.”
He’s their Why.
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