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Giants' loss painful in Sandy's wake

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Toughness and resiliency have rarely meant more to Tom Coughlin than in this past week.

The New York Giants coach saw how millions on the East Coast and all around New York and New Jersey were impacted by Hurricane Sandy and how they've responded.

He's seen the devastation and heard how many lost loved ones, homes and power.

And that is why the Giants head coach and his players were extremely frustrated after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and losing 24-20 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In the grand scheme of things, the Giants understand that their game was a blip on the radar compared to the devastation of Sandy. But they were hoping to provide a temporary distraction and, for two-plus hours, potentially lift some spirits in need of just that.

The Giants feel as if they let down a lot of people on Sunday.

"We couldn't get it done for New York," Osi Umenyiora said.

Coughlin took the loss the hardest.

"You could tell he's disappointed," Justin Tuck said of a visibly frustrated Coughlin. "We had a lot riding on this game. Everyone knows about what's taken place this last week in this area. A lot of us have been affected ourselves.

"We wanted to come out and put some smiles on faces."

Coughlin wanted his team to represent the region and perhaps provide some with a different type of relief.

Giants fan Colleen Servodio tweeted on Saturday that she couldn't return to her home in Point Pleasant Beach "'til God knows when."

"Watching the @Giants will make me feel normal!" she tweeted.

During his Saturday night speech to the team, Coughlin drove this point home. He told the Giants that they could be a positive force for the city and hopefully provide those in need something positive during a difficult time.

"He let us know that we were the reason why people would continue to stay positive during this time," wide receiver Victor Cruz said.

Coughlin -- who wore an "NJ" hat in the first half and then an "NY" hat in the second half -- was frustrated that his team surrendered a 20-10 lead in the final 14:05, that his defense couldn't stop the run when it needed to and that his offense has gotten progressively worse over the past three games.

But it seemed to genuinely pain the coach that he and the Giants could not deliver any sort of positive vibes for their fans.

"I tried to, I wanted everyone to realize that what we were trying to do was give them a few hours of enjoyment in a very, very difficult time," an exasperated Coughlin said. "And let them know we understood the mass difficulties that we're facing -- neighbors, that many, many people were fighting to survive, fighting to get their homes back, families reunited and all those kinds of things in the aftermath of a tragic storm.

"I hope the message came through that we were trying," he continued. "But we didn't accomplish what we set out to do."

Coughlin's message was certainly heard by his team. He had U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno talk to the Giants on Friday about Odierno's experiences during the recovery effort in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The Giants experienced some of their own troubles, returning to powerless and sometimes damaged and flooded homes and apartments. It was all minor in comparison to what so many were going through. They considered themselves fortunate.

Martellus Bennett helped neighbors with the cleanup effort in his West New York (N.J.) neighborhood as cars floated nearby last Tuesday.

Mathias Kiwanuka had sewage rise into the first floor of his townhouse. Numerous players went without power for days but nobody complained. Some had family members who traveled to Dallas for last Sunday's game -- like Cruz's mother, Blanca -- stuck in Texas until late last week.

Through it all, they felt a responsibility to try to help the tri-state area as much as possible.

And for three quarters, the Giants nearly accomplished their mission for one day. They led the Steelers 20-10. They found a way to bring Big Ben Roethlisberger down four times and Michael Boley even scooped up a fumble and took it 70 yards for a touchdown.

But the Steelers, who had their own normal routine altered, took it to the Giants in the fourth.

Mike Wallace, quiet for most of the afternoon, scampered across the field and down the sideline for a 51-yard catch-and-run touchdown that sliced the Giants' lead to 20-17 with 14 minutes left.

The Giants' offense, which has gone ice cold of late, went three-and-out on all three of their fourth-quarter possessions. Eli Manning has struggled for much of the past three games but was able to make just enough plays in the fourth quarter to beat Washington and Dallas.

But against Pittsburgh, the Giants' fourth-quarter magic faded. Manning completed just one of five passes and was sacked twice in the final quarter as Pittsburgh scored 14 unanswered to win the game. The Giants couldn't stop Isaac Redman (147 yards rushing and one touchdown) when they needed to.

"A lot of aspects of the game were not Giants football," Boley said. "Obviously, it showed."

Manning, who saw the Hudson River rise then flood the Hoboken (N.J.) streets and the lobby of his apartment complex, and his teammates made no excuses after the game.

They certainly would not say whether what transpired last week finally caught up with them in the fourth quarter.

"You never really know, sometimes stuff wears on you and you never really realize it," Bennett said. "It probably did but I don't think that is an excuse to lose the game. Just one of those things you have to overcome. You got to suck it up and do your job."

And the Giants did not finish the job on Sunday. They felt as if they let New York and New Jersey down.

"[We wanted to] give people a reason to stand up and cheer and a reason to get away from their circumstances for a couple of hours," Kiwanuka said in a quiet locker room afterward. "We wanted to give them a win … all the people we knew that were depending on us for a little bit of relief in terms of just emotionally to get away."