By Ernie Palladino
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The Giants came less than a touchdown short of making this a perfect weekend for this poor, Sandy-battered area so in need of diversion, and may again be of similar want next week if the predicted nor'easter hits Wednesday or Thursday.
The Knicks beat the defending champion Heat on Friday, and the Nets finally opened the Barclays Center on the right note over the Raptors. And, hey, if Saturday's reports are accurate, it appears Mo Rivera will come back for one more go-round with the Yanks.
A Giants victory Sunday over the Steelers would have made for a great weekend, superstorm or not. It didn't happen, of course. They fell 24-20.
In normal times, the focus in this space would go squarely on an offense that couldn't do a thing against Mike Tomlin's crew from western PA. Lots of criticism would be heaped on an offensive line that couldn't keep the heat off Eli Manning at critical times, or open enough holes for Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown. Lots of conjecture would go on about whether this marked the beginning of another of the Giants' second-half swoons.
This is not what we're all about here, however. Not this week. Too much life going on for that. Football may be a zero-sum business, but life is not. In football, you either win or you lose, and it doesn't matter how. Close just isn't good enough.
Life, however, is often gray and messy. We have tragedy. We adjust. We clean. We recover. And sometimes, while we're busy with all that, close is good enough. Horseshoes, hand grenades, and life.
That's why Sunday's game was good enough. It would have been nicer had Manning been able to pull out one of his patented last-minute comebacks, naturally, but what we really needed was an entertaining game. So let the fans who took time from their toils to watch, listen, or pack MetLife Stadium to capacity thank the two teams for providing just that -- a fun, old-fashioned defensive brawl.
In the end, Mike Wallace and Isaac Redman got the better of the Giants' defense, Wallace running away from Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley to put the Steelers down by three early in the fourth quarter, and Redman plowing through the run defense for the winning touchdown with just over four minutes remaining.
But how can one knock the defensive and special teams highlights on both sides. There was Osi Umenyiora knocking the ball from Ben Roethlisberger's hand, the fumble bouncing right to Michael Boley for a 70-yard touchdown return in the second quarter. There was Ike Taylor picking off Manning at 3:03 of the first, and the Steelers turning it into a second-quarter touchdown throw to Emmanuel Sanders.
There was Sanders' 63-yard punt return, on which athletic punter Steve Weatherford denied him a touchdown, followed by cornerback Michael Coe's tremendous read of a fake field goal run that would have seen Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham walk in for a touchdown against just about any other team.
There was Manning, looking for that comeback, being pressured by LaMarr Woodley into a fumble on third down that forced a punt, just a play after the Steelers' pass rush forced a high throw.
Antrel Rolle batted a pass early, then laid the wood on Wallace as he tried to rise after a late, rolling completion. Jason Pierre-Paul nearly wrecked the game for the Steelers throughout. Corey Webster had an interception.
It didn't even appear that Pittsburgh would be in the game the way the home defense started, with Justin Tuck's batted pass, Tuck's sack, and Hosley's forced fumble that rolled out of bounds.
But Redman finished it all with a 28-yard run, the Giants out of timeouts, luck, and miracles.
A Giants runaway would have been welcome on a day that began reverently with players and coaches from both sides, leaders of our armed forces, and first-responders joining to stretch our flag across the gridiron.
Things don't always end perfectly, though. The Giants lost. They're 6-3. But two historic, old-time rivals joined up for four quarters of fun, slam-dance defense, with a little timely offense thrown in for good measure.
A Giants win would have served as perfect entertainment. This was only close.
The way life has gone for so many the past week, close is good enough.
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