There were too many rare sights on the MetLife Stadium field Sunday for Giants fans.
One of them occurred on the Giants' very first offensive play, a long pass intended for Hakeem Nicks. Instead of grabbing a perfectly thrown ball from Eli Manning, Nicks had to use his long reach to break up a potential interception by the Steelers.
Then, at the end of a frustrating day for the entire offense, Manning and Victor Cruz were completely off their usually impeccable timing. A first-down throw landed 10 yards ahead of Cruz, who cut off his route as the Giants tried to start a drive to rally from a four-point deficit with 3:55 remaining.
"Personally, I feel we've been lacking a little on offense," said Nicks, who had his worst game in four years in the NFL, catching one ball for 10 yards, and that one not coming until the third quarter. He was targeted only four times in the 24-20 defeat.
"Maybe we've just got to sit down, take a look at ourselves and see what we can do better."
Manning completed only 10 of 24 passes for 125 yards with one interception and had a very poor passer rating of 41.1. Cruz had five catches for 67 yards, but he was targeted 11 times. Manning tried to force too much to his favorite receiver, who had two catches for 13 yards during a dismal second half for the offense.
"A little bit, one or two miscues, nothing out of the ordinary," Cruz said of the off day he and Manning experienced. "It's not where you need to run home and tell Mom about it, but it was just a couple things we weren't on the same page today."
Unfortunately for the Giants, the quarterback and his top two receivers haven't been on the same page for a while now.
Cruz did show his big-play ability two weeks ago, when he split double coverage and ran under Manning's deep ball to catch the 77-yard touchdown pass with 1:13 remaining to beat the Redskins.
But Nicks and Cruz totaled six catches, four by Nicks, for only 69 yards in the win at Dallas a week ago. Sunday brought another combined six-catch game, with no wizardry by the defense to save the Giants.
"Defenses are just scheming on us -- they've got to be breaking us down pretty good in the film room," Nicks said. "I feel like they're putting a nice little scheme together for us, looking to take certain people out of the game, and it's been working these last couple games."
Nicks said he's still not 100 percent healthy from the foot and knee injuries that kept him out for three games, and it's showing with only 12 catches in the three games since his return. Manning's only three targets of him besides the third-quarter catch were deep heaves into traffic. The Giants got a gift 41-yard interference call on Keenan Lewis on one, but the other two were closer to interceptions than big completions.
"You can't just single out one play in a game like this," Nicks said. "You have to look and see what you can do to get better overall."