The Giants have a winning record, are alone in first place and seem poised to be contenders for the rest of the season.

This just isn't the way it was expected to happen.

If they got to this point, it was supposed to be on the strength of their wonderful and talented passing attack that could score 30 points per game, drive opposing defenses crazy and cover up lapses that their undermanned defense was sure to commit. That's why the most surprising thing about the Giants' season so far isn't where they are, but how they have gotten here.

DatabaseTouchdowns scored at MetLife StadiumSee alsoBoxscore: Giants vs. Cowboys

That passing game has been a non-factor for the last two games, drumming up a combined 323 yards . . . or what you'd think they'd be capable of achieving in single-game clips. In fact, they've had just one game with more than 300 passing yards, and that was the 441-yard outburst against the 49ers when Eli Manning attempted 54 passes.

It's hard to ask what's wrong with a team that has won four of its last five games, but . . . what's wrong?

Tom Coughlin thinks he can put his finger on the most recent struggles.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"The issue that we're having is obvious," he said Monday. "We've got some guys who are not able to practice full time and it's difficult when there is not practice time."

He's talking, of course, about Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle, who both have spent the past two weeks dealing with hamstring injuries. Beckham has become a once-a-week practice player, only on the day before games. Randle has been participating in the practices but has been listed as limited.

"To go ahead and go out on the field on a Sunday afternoon and play as if you've had all of those days and those opportunities that you normally have throughout the course of the week where you communicate well, particularly if you are introducing something a little bit different, you don't have that," Coughlin said. "That's a little bit of an issue right now and hopefully we can overcome it."

Giants videos

Beckham, who has accounted for 11 catches and 96 yards since he injured the hamstring against the 49ers, said he doesn't think the lack of practice has created any issues in his timing with Manning. But he did concede that it would be better if he practiced.

"I think that practice, it helps," he said. "You get to see it before you see it [in the game]. I definitely understand as far as practicing and being on the same page, but I don't think it was the difference."

Without the vaunted passing numbers, the Giants have had to rely on other aspects of their game to compensate. They have eight takeaways on defense in the last two games plus a special-teams touchdown.

Beckham said his hamstring has gotten better with his maintenance schedule. "It's been able to heal up," he said. And he still believes that the big passing numbers promised by this group will come.

"I think things will come along when they come along," he said. "The road construction is never really finished. We're still building . . . We just all have to be on the same page and get going."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

They'd better, because it seems unlikely the Giants will be able to grind and scrap their way to the playoffs without some bigger contributions from their most talented group. Coughlin, when asked if the Giants will need that passing attack, said: "I don't think there's any doubt about that."