The Giants could not help New York.
Not the way they wanted to, at least. They couldn't give a battered region a reason to smile after an excruciating week in which players felt the same pains and inconveniences experienced by so many of their fans.
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A 24-20 loss to the Steelers left them feeling the way most of the region has in the seven days since superstorm Sandy roared ashore.
"I wanted everyone to realize that what we were trying to do was to give them a few hours of enjoyment in a very, very difficult time," Tom Coughlin said after the loss. "To let them know that we understood the mass difficulties that are facing our neighbors and that many, many people are fighting to survive, fighting to get their homes back, to get their families reunited and all those kinds of things in the aftermath of a tragic, tragic storm.
"I hope the message came through we were trying, but we didn't accomplish what we set out to do."
"The extra disappointment comes from knowing that our fans were counting on this, these couple of hours out of their week to be an escape from reality," he said. "Yeah, they had a reason to cheer out there, but we didn't deliver the win that we wanted to give them."
Through three quarters, they seemed ready to provide that temporary bandage on the emotional gash. They brought a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter but were outscored 14-0 in a period they typically own.
"We've been pretty good in fourth quarters at coming back and scoring more and finishing the game strong," Eli Manning said. "Tonight it finally caught up with us."
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Giants (6-3). It was the first road win of the season for the Steelers (5-3).
The Giants' 20-10 lead could have been bigger. Then again, it could have been smaller. Both Giants touchdowns came on plays that needed to be reviewed.
The first was a 1-yard run by Andre Brown in which the backup running back -- with a tug from Chris Snee -- grazed the plane of the goal line with the ball. It was ruled a touchdown on the field and confirmed via replay. That tied the score at 7.
That was followed by Osi Umenyiora's strip-sack of Ben Roethlisberger. The ball was picked up by Michael Boley, who returned it 70 yards for a touchdown that was reviewed to see if Roethlisberger's arm was moving forward, which would have made it an incomplete pass. Referee Bill Leavy decided Umenyiora dislodged the ball before the forward motion and upheld the touchdown.
Late in the second quarter, the Giants had to try a 51-yard field goal into the wind. Lawrence Tynes was short with 31 seconds left. That let the Steelers drive 47 yards on two passes, spike the ball with five seconds left and kick a 30-yard field goal as time expired to make it 14-10.
Two field goals by Tynes made it 20-10, but on the second snap of the fourth quarter, on third-and-5, Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace on a short slant from the right side. Antrel Rolle came up to make a tackle that would have stopped Wallace short of the first down near midfield, but he took a questionable angle for Wallace's speed and could not make the play. That allowed Wallace to streak across the field, through the secondary, and turn the ball up the left sideline. He outran Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley for a 51-yard TD that made it 20-17.
After a 63-yard punt return by Emmanuel Sanders to the 12, on fourth-and-1 from the 3, the Giants sniffed out a fake field goal to get the ball back. That should have been a momentum-turner. Instead, they went three-and-out, and the Steelers drove 51 yards on nine plays, capped by Isaac Redman's 1-yard run with 4:02 left.
The Giants had a chance to hold the Steelers to a field goal when they stopped Redman on third-and-7 from the 14, but Hosley was flagged for jumping into the neutral zone. That gave the Steelers an extra down, and on third-and-2 from the 9, Redman rumbled to the 1. Two plays later, he was in the end zone and the Steelers were ahead.
For good, as it turned out. They converted a third-and-9 with 2:23 left, and then a 28-yard run by Redman sealed it.
Coughlin wore hats honoring New Jersey and New York throughout the game and held the field-sized American flag during pregame ceremonies. He called it "as disappointing a loss as we've had around here in a long time."
And it had little to do with football.
"We wanted emotionally so badly to win the game for all our neighbors who are struggling and need some type of inspiration," Coughlin said. "Of course, we didn't provide it for them . . . That was not the kind of game we had planned to play."
If this week taught the Giants -- and the area -- anything, it's that plans often change.