The Giants talked a lot this week about lifting the spirits of the area with their play against the Steelers.
It didn't turn out that way. The Giants led 14-7 and 20-10 at points, but the Steelers scored the final 14 points of the game to come away with a 24-14 victory.
In the first half, it definitely seemed like the Giants were going to benefit from any good karma built up by the way the resilient people in our area kept a stiff upper lip in the face of Hurricane Sandy. The Giants were the beneficiaries of a slew of calls made and unmade by referees who seemed to be auditioning for jobs as replacements in the next referee lockout.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark was called for an illegal hit to the head of Victor Cruz even though Cruz was clearly hit in the ribs in a totally legal manner since the ball was still in the air after being deflected by another member of the Steelers secondary. Andre Brown scored on the next play, although it looked like he was down before getting into the end zone.
The Giants scored again less than two minutes later when Michael Boley returned a Roethlisberger fumble 70 yards for a touchdown. It looked like a textbook tuck play -- the quarterback's arm was moving forward when he was hit by Osi Umenyiora -- but referee Bill Leavy (who handed a Super Bowl to the Steelers with awful work and later apologized for it) upheld the play on review.
Making matters worse for the officials, Jason Pierre-Paul was not flagged for a blatant block in the back during Boley's return. It was ugly, but the rest of the game was much uglier for the Giants.
Despite being gifted 14 points and, later, an interception on an awful throw by Roethlisberger, the Giants managed just six other points in the contest. Eli Manning was 10-of-24 for 125 yards and an interception, work that's as bad as anything he's done all year without any saving grace in the final minutes.
The running game looked okay with Andre Brown, but Ahmad Bradshaw did little and Hakeem Nicks has become a total afterthought in the passing attack. It was the kind of performance the Giants offense has been flirting with for weeks and it finally caught up with them.
The defense was game for most of the day, but things fell apart in the fourth quarter. Mike Wallace beat an awful Antrel Rolle attempted tackle and went 51 yards for a touchdown to cut the Giants lead to 20-17 and jolt the Steelers to life after an awful third quarter of work that included Big Ben's interception.
Another miserable Giants offensive series ended with a punt that Emmanuel Sanders almost took the distance, but punter Steve Weatherford was able to force him out at the 13. The Steelers gained nine yards on three plays and then went a bit too clever when they tried a fake field goal instead of running Isaac Redman (who already had more than 100 yards) for the first down.
The Giants held, but it didn't help. Things were moving downhill and the Steelers finally got some good luck from the zebras when they flagged Jayron Hosley for jumping offside on third down to set up Redman's one-yard touchdown run.
Hosley would be responsible for one last bad play. With 2:40 to go and the Steelers facing a third-and-9, Hosley lost Sanders and gave up a completion that allowed the Steelers to hold onto the ball long enough for Redman to dash deep into Giants territory and ice the win.
The loss drops the Giants to 6-3 (they're 1-8 in their ninth game of the season under Tom Coughlin) and sends them to Week 10 off a poor performance that will surely lead to questions about another second half fade. It wouldn't be the Giants if that wasn't the case, although that's small consolation after a game like this.