FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Sunday, it was a safety. Thursday night, it was a touchdown. Both times, Jon Hilliman was on the wrong side of a momentum-turning play.
With the Giants without top running backs Saquon Barkley (high ankle sprain) and Wayne Gallman (concussion), the onus once again fell to Hillman, the undrafted rookie who began this season on the practice squad, and once again he struggled.
Against the Vikings, Hilliman was trapped in the end zone for a safety, though there was very little he could do on the play because of penetration and a suspect play call. In a 35-14 loss to the Patriots on Thursday night, he found no room to maneuver after catching a short pass, was drilled by Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy returned his fumble 22 yards for a touchdown to turn a seven-point New England lead into a commanding 14-point cushion with 8:33 remaining.
“Same thing that kind of happened against Washington,” Hilliman said, referring to his Week 4 fumble against the Redskins. “Turned around and helmet was on the ball. Just can’t happen.”
The good news for the Giants is Barkley could be back the next time they are in action, a week from Sunday against the Cardinals at MetLife Stadium. Barkley has healed faster than expected, has been a limited participant in the Giants’ past three practices and will now have plenty of time to rest up and get healthy before their next game.
Despite Barkley’s injury, and Gallman suffering a concussion in the first quarter last Sunday, the Giants opted against adding a running back. They instead went with Hilliman and fullback Eli Penny, though running back Austin Walter was called up from the practice squad for this game. The results have been predictable.
The Giants ran for 64 yards against the Vikings and just 52 yards on Thursday night, averaging just 3.2 yards per carries in the two losses. The lack of a running game has made them predictable and one-dimensional, putting extra pressure on rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.
“There was running room. We had our shots,” Hilliman said. “We just have to make more out of the runs we have and the opportunities we have.”