PITTSBURGH -- All those warning signs proved prophetic. The six straight wins masked the New York Giants' problems on offense for most of the past two months, until they bubbled to the surface Sunday in Pittsburgh against better competition.
The Dallas Cowboys (11-1) are in the clear. Next Sunday’s divisional matchup with the Cowboys now becomes more survival mode for the Giants than anything else. They still need to find at least two more wins against mostly winning opponents to grab a wild-card spot.
The Steelers were clearly a step up in competition, one the Giants weren’t ready to handle. Their previous five opponents had a combined 14-40-1 record heading into this week. Pittsburgh (7-5) was a different beast, especially at home where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plays well.
Roethlisberger took what the Giants gave him and threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns.
But it was the Giants’ offense that again slogged through another sluggish afternoon, much as it had done for the better part of this season. The offensive line was exposed.
It finally came back to hurt the Giants on Sunday in Pittsburgh. They were able to overcome it last week in Cleveland when the offense finished with under 300 total yards. Those were the winless Browns. This was a playoff-caliber Steelers team. The Giants were shut out in the first half, when they managed five first downs and 91 total yards.
All of the warts that were there the first 12 weeks of the season for the Giants had left doubters. How else do you explain them being six-point underdogs Sunday?
But it proved correct, at least for this one afternoon. The Giants looked like a flawed team that took advantage of weaker competition much of this season. It was eventually going to come back and bite them.
They were too sloppy with the ball. Quarterback Eli Manning threw a pair of interceptions, including a costly one in the red zone early in the second quarter.
They failed to establish a consistent running game. The NFL’s 31st-ranked rushing offense ran for just 56 yards in the contest.
The Giants' defense couldn't stop the tight end. Ladarius Green had six catches for a career-high 110 yards receiving against them.
None of this should have come as a complete surprise. Despite the recent run of results, the warning signs were there. These Giants were just finally exposed for what they are -- and have been -- most of this season. Again, they weren't good enough to beat quality competition on the road.