After delivering so many times with late comebacks and big performances, Eli Manning and the New York Giants couldn't provide a happy ending for the storm-ravaged fans who came to see them against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Manning not only came short and looked out of sorts in a 24-20 loss Sunday, his passing statistics were his worst in almost four years. He finished 10 of 24 for 125 yards. The yardage total was his lowest total since the final game of the 2008 season when he had 119 yards playing just the first half against Minnesota in the regular-season finale before a playoff game against Philadelphia.
There was plenty of blame to go around for the Giants (6-3) after the Steelers (5-3) scored 14 points in the final 15 minutes to snap New York's four-game winning streak.
The offense was 2 of 10 on third down. Receivers seemingly ran the wrong patterns. The running game generated 68 yards. And while the defense kept Tom Coughlin's team in the game for the first three quarters, it never could slow down Issac Redman, who rushed for a career-high 147 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 4:02 to play.
"We had a lot riding on the game," defensive captain Justin Tuck said. "Everybody knows what has taken place this past week in this area. A lot of us have been affected ourselves. We wanted to come out and give this region a reason to put some smiles on people's faces. That's frustrating in itself and knowing you had the opportunity to beat a great football team at home, and let that slip through your hands.
"We've been a team known for finishing and when we take the lead into the fourth quarter and we don't sustain that, that's frustrating," Tuck added. "That's not us. We have to look at this thing tomorrow and come back next week and try to get to 7-3."
The offense probably has more to correct than the defense. For the second straight week, Manning and company just didn't do much. Linebacker Michael Boley provided one touchdown with a 70-yard fumble return, and a Corey Webster interception set up Lawrence Tynes' second field goal.
The other 10 points came courtesy of two major pass interference penalties against Keenan Lewis and a late hit by Steelers safety Ryan Clark.
Manning had a chance to stage another fourth-quarter comeback after Redman scored, but New York went three and out.
Manning missed Victor Cruz on a short pass on first down. Overthrew Hakeem Nicks on a go-pattern on second down and was sacked on third down.
"We've been pretty good in the fourth quarter coming back and scoring points," Manning said. "Tonight we were in a position to take the lead and possibly win the game and we didn't come through."
Despite leading a comeback against Dallas a week ago, Manning has not played well in recent weeks. He denied being in a slump and said having to leave his home and move into a hotel because of the Superstorm Sandy didn't take him out of his routine. He said he hasn't been as sharp as he has needed to be and this week it caught up with the Giants.
"We've got to get him back on track," Coughlin said. "He is our guy and we have to get him back playing the way he was a couple of weeks ago. And we have to do it in a hurry. It's just not Eli now. We're struggling to get ourselves in position so it's an automatic for the quarterback."
The Giants will face the Bengals in Cincinnati on Sunday before getting a bye.
Coughlin refused to say specifically what was wrong with the offense.
"So we've got to just get going. People have got to play the way they are capable of playing," Coughlin said. "Look at where our big play production has been. Two weeks ago we were the number one big play team in the league. I mean it doesn't make any sense."
Cruz, who led the Giants with five catches for 67 yards, refused to say the offense was in a slump.
"Slump is kind of a strong word, I wouldn't' got slump," Cruz said. "We're having a tough time now, everyone being on the same page. It's a little bit of a rough spot for us. We just have to continue to stay positive and keep things moving forward."
NOTES: Pittsburgh lost leading receiver Antonio Brown in the first half with a left ankle sprain and kick returner Chris Rainey in the third quarter with a rib injury. Rainey had 173 yards on five runbacks ... The Steelers held the ball for more than 35 minutes.
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