By Larry Fine
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin and his players were doubly disappointed on Sunday, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers and letting down fans that needed a lift following superstorm Sandy.
"We wanted emotionally so badly to win the game for obvious reasons, for all our neighbors who are struggling and who need some type of inspiration," Coughlin said after the team blew a 10-point lead in a 24-20 loss by allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"Of course, we didn't provide it for them. This is not the kind of game we had planned to play."
A crowd of nearly 80,000 came to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey across the Hudson River from Manhattan, an area where nearly a million people are still without electricity nearly a week after the storm hit.
Before the game, first-responders to the areas worst hit by the storm were honored on the field.
"What we were trying to do was to give them a few hours of enjoyment in a very, very difficult time," added Coughlin.
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck shared in the frustration.
"A lot of people wanted us to win," said Tuck. "We had a lot riding on this game.
"Everyone knows about this last week in this area and a lot of us have been affected ourselves and wanted to come out put some smiles on people's faces. That's frustrating to us."
Speedy wide receiver Victor Cruz, a fan favorite, was downcast after the defeat.
"It's a little disappointing definitely for the fans who live and die with us, and looked at our game as a way of relief and as a way of hope to moving forward from Hurricane Sandy," said Cruz. "It's just unfortunate we couldn't get it done for them."
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who was displaced from his own home this week due to the storm's damage, said the team was not distracted by having to deal with Sandy's aftermath.
"I kept my regular schedule, watched my film and come to the practice and try to stay in a normal routine. I thought the guys did a good job not complaining about things, not making excuses. We were prepared to play tonight. We just didn't play our best."
Even the Steelers felt the impact.
The team departed from their routine and flew in for the game on Sunday morning instead of Saturday so their hotel rooms could be used by local victims of the storm.
"What's happened here in this region this past week, of course, is life and reality," said Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin.
"You know it was a little bit of an adjustment I'm sure for both teams. I'm sure it was more of an adjustment for the Giants."
(Editing by Julian Linden)