Five Giant losses: The Steelers meltdown

As the playoffs move into the conference championship weekend, we take a look at five games that cost the Giants an opportunity to defend their title in the postseason.

The Giants finished 9-7 this season but needed one more win to get back into the playoffs. Today we look at the Giants' 24-20 loss to Pittsburgh in Week 9.

What went wrong: In an emotional game after Hurricane Sandy, the Giants led the Steelers 20-10 entering the fourth quarter before completely unraveling. The Steelers outplayed the Giants in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 unanswered.

The offense vanished as the Giants went three-and-out in each of their three fourth-quarter possessions, and the defense was unable to get a stop as the Steelers milked the final 2:52.

Turning point: On the second play of the fourth quarter, Mike Wallace turned a short pass into a 51-yard touchdown that sliced a 20-10 Giants lead into a 20-17 game with 14:05 left.

Giant regret: While the offense managed a total of minus-8 yards in the fourth quarter, the Giants' defense shouldered much of the blame because it couldn't stop Pittsburgh. After Wallace ran free for his touchdown, the Steelers struck again with a nine-play, 51-yard scoring drive that ended with the game-winning touchdown.

During that drive, the Giants stopped the Steelers on a third-and-7 at the Giants' 14. But rookie corner Jayron Hosley was flagged for defensive offside and the Steelers converted the ensuing third-and-2 before eventually scoring a touchdown with 4:02 remaining.

The defense was given a chance to redeem itself when Pittsburgh got the ball back with 2:52 left. But on a third-and-9 at the Steelers' 29, Ben Roethlisberger hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 16-yard gain. Isaac Redman then had a 28-yard run to seal the game.

What if: The Giants faded badly in the fourth quarter, leading some to wonder if they were fatigued from battling two opponents –- the Steelers and Hurricane Sandy.

While the Giants did not have to go through the worst of the storm like so many others did in the New York-New Jersey area, players still had to deal with being without power while some had to move to hotels or stay with teammates.

The Steelers' normal routine was also affected as they opted to fly in on the morning of the game instead of taking hotel rooms from those in the area who really needed them.

The Giants didn't make excuses and wanted to give fans a temporary distraction from the storm's aftermath. But they wilted in the fourth and looked spent.

If the Giants had been able to hang on to their lead and win this game, they likely would have made the playoffs. Instead, this loss started their annual midseason swoon, as they lost five of their final eight games.

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