Saquon Barkley was the singular ray of sunshine on a dreary, depressing day for the New York Giants' offense in a 34-13 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The rookie running back shimmered on a night his teammates went dark, toting the ball just 13 times but picking up 130 rushing yards, and leading Big Blue in receptions with nine, and receiving yards with 99. He amassed 229 of the team's 401 total yards. Barkley was just one yard shy of being the first player in team history to go for 100 yards rushing and 100 receiving.
Even after such a special night, the No. 2 overall pick wasn't interested in talking about superlatives.
"How did I feel about my performance tonight... Doesn't matter to me," he said per the team's official transcript. "We didn't get the win. To be completely honest, don't care. As long as we get the win, I don't care if I went for however many yards or even if I went for 30 yards, if we won, if we got the win, I would be satisfied, but at the end of the day we didn't so none of that matters."
Barkley certainly did his part, running through, around and over tackles as if he were a 16-year-old playing against 9-year-olds. The rookie back can juke opponents in a phone booth like he's Barry Sanders, breeze past would-be in space tacklers like Walter Payton, and finish a run blasting through a defender's face like Beast Mode.
Thursday night's performance made Barkley just the second rookie back in the Super Bowl era to begin his career with 100-plus scrimmage yards in six straight games, joining Kareem Hunt, who did it seven times to open last season.
Even Barkley's dominant performance, however, couldn't lift a morbid offense.
"You really don't even know that you're dominating in a game when you're down two touchdowns, three touchdowns," he noted. "Only thing in your mind is no matter what, if you're down by 40, if you're down by 50, 60 or whatever, you just continue to play your heart out for this team and for your brothers on the sideline, so you're not even focusing on that. I guess that's why you don't even notice it because that's just the mindset that I have."
And therein lies the rub for the Giants. The decision to pass on a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick has already been a debate topic since the night Saquon put on a Big Blue hat. With Eli Manning playing like a dying star that has burned all its fuel, is collapsing upon itself and now swallowing planets whole, the need for a new young QB is glaring. With rookie quarterbacks like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen looking like the real deal, it's doubly painful for Giants fans knowing the most important position in sports remains a blaring question.
The argument is not a knock on Barkley. The player didn't choose where he was drafted. He's simply caught in a debate about position value versus talent.
And there is no question Barkley has talent. Perhaps loads more talent than any player in the entire 2018 draft. He's on pace to finish with 2,162 yards from scrimmage, which would be the most for a rookie since Eric Dickerson's 2,212 in 1983, per Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith.
The problem for the Giants is this isn't 1983. In a passing league, quarterbacks are even more valuable than back when most running backs weren't as seemingly interchangeable as Legos.
For Barkley, all he can do is keep carrying the load, wowing the crowd and making big plays.
"I wouldn't say that I was trying to carry the team," he said. "That's not my mindset really ever. My mindset is to go out there and play my butt off, lead on the sideline, push myself, push my teammates and do whatever it takes to help the team win or help put us in a better position to win. It's never really the mindset of carrying the team on my back. If that's how people take it or see it. then I guess you could say that, but my mindset is just go out there fighting, fighting my butt off and try to break tackles and make plays for my teammates."
Hopefully, at some point his teammates will join him and make some plays for themselves.