EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants aren't just a one-dimensional offense, they are a one-trick offense. It's as if their entire game plan is to muddle along and keep the game close until Odell Beckham finds a way to explode.
Of course, when he does the explosion is a thing of beauty -- as he proved yet again in the Giants' 10-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
"He's a special player," Eli Manning said after four passes for 94 yards to Beckham, including a 61-yard touchdown in the third quarter. "You hit him in stride and good things happen. So we've got to find ways to hit him on the move, hit him on the run."
Yes they do, because absolutely nothing else is working with what is now the NFL's 27th-ranked offense (322.2 yards per game) that is averaging just 19.6 points per game -- the eighth-worst total in the league. Despite bringing just about everybody back -- including the same offense and play-caller -- from what had been a Top 10 offense for two straight seasons, the Giants' attack has been on a maddening, season-long slide.
On Sunday night against the Cowboys, they had 260 total yards, including just 19 and no first downs on three possessions in the final 6:55 while trying desperately to help the defense and protect a three-point lead. Manning was awful again (17 of 28, 193 yards, two fumbles, one touchdown, one interception). Sterling Shepard (three catches, 39 yards) and Victor Cruz (1-4) were basically non-existent. The Giants' offensive line was a near disaster. The running game averaged just 2.8 yards per carry (33-93). For a while, even Beckham was contributing to the offensive nightmare with two huge drops.
But the thing about Beckham is -- by far more than any other player on this roster, and even than most players in the league -- he can struggle or be a non-factor for long periods of time and end up being a dominant force anyway. That happened late in the third quarter with the Cowboys holding a 7-0 lead. Beckham, to that point, had done nothing.
And he knew it, too.
"I told myself, 'You need to wake up,'" said Beckham, who has 79 catches for 1,109 yards and nine touchdowns this season. "'I don't know what's going on with you but you need to wake up. You're on auto pilot or whatever the case may be. You're not out here affecting this game or doing anything.' That bothers me. It eats me up.
"I feel like I work too hard. We're up all day, meetings and everything for these 60 minutes on Sunday. It just kills me to be able to come out here and not do what you're supposed to be doing. I just had to talk to myself and the man above. I said, 'Wake me up! It's time to wake up.' Sure enough, we came to life."
Well, he did. He ran a quick slant and Manning hit him just seven yards downfield right between two defenders. He threw a shoulder fake and took an angle that made the diving tackle attempt of Dallas safety Barry Church irrelevant, then found an extra gear that allowed him to out-run cornerback Brandon Carr over the next 50 yards.
It was, as broadcaster Bob Papa noted on the Giants' radio cast, like "he was shot out of a cannon." And as huge and exciting as it was, it's really nothing we haven't all seen Beckham do before.
"I just caught a slant, tried to hit a gear, I looked back -- well actually, I didn't have to look back I could just hear someone running (and) I was running as fast as ever," Beckham said. "I felt someone chasing me. I had to hit another gear. My hamstrings got a little tight, but it was a real race. I really had to run."
It was the only significant offensive play the Giants had all game. Beckham had shots at two others -- but he dropped a pass at the 2-yard line in the first half when he got behind the Cowboys defense, and he had dropped an earlier pass in the second half that would've given the Giants a first down at the Dallas 13 (they settled for a field goal instead).
It was as if they were waiting all game long for Beckham to do something special, to find that extra gear.
"I knew it was in there but I didn't know how to hit it until … they just call it flight or fight, I think," Beckham said. "It's just instinct."
For the Giants, though, it's everything. It's the only thing they seem to do well offensively. The Giants' offense was supposed to be dangerous -- especially their passing attack with their Big 3 receivers. But somewhere along the line the Big 3 became the Big 1.
How long can the Giants survive like that? Well, they are 9-4 and the win over the Cowboys prove they can beat the best teams in the league. Sure, they're playing with fire. Their stagnant offense gave the Cowboys five different offensive chances to at least tie the game in the 16 minutes after Beckham's touchdown gave the Giants the lead.
"I wish us, as an offense, the two or three chances we had, would close the game out," Beckham said. "Even if you don't close it and it's 17-7 or even if we get a field goal, it would take more time off the clock. Just finding ways for us to not have to put anyone else back on the field. That's the hardest part. It's frustrating.
"I don't even want our defense to come back out. I want the defense to be sitting there eating candy, untying their shoes knowing that the offense has this game in control, just knowing that they don't even have to go back on the field. It's something that we're working on and it's something that's a process.
"It'll come together at the right time, I truly believe that."
And if it doesn't, maybe that will catch up with them eventually. Maybe it'll prove impossible to win as a one-man show on the road in the playoffs. Maybe, as good as the Giants' defense is playing, the one-dimensional Giants offense will rely on them once too much.
Then again, when that one dimension is as good and as explosive as Beckham has been, maybe one big player and one big play per game is more than enough.