Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes on Sunday to spark the Pittsburgh Steelers over the New York Giants 24-20 in an NFL game played with Hurricane Sandy’s devastation as a backdrop.
With the New York area still recovering from the killer storm’s damage, and shelter and electricity not yet restored for many, the Steelers decided not to fill precious hotel rooms, traveling in and out of the area on Sunday.
“The first thing was to make sure we weren’t going to do anything to interfere with public safety or use resources that would help in the recovery,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We talked to a lot of people and they all said they needed something to re-energize, something to entertain.”
Severe damage prompted New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to cancel the New York Marathon that was scheduled for Sunday, but the NFL game in suburban New Jersey went off as planned, although it did not end as the Giants had hoped.
“We wanted emotionally so badly to win the game for all our neighbors, who are struggling and who need some type of inspiration,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “What we were trying to do was to give them a few hours of enjoyment in a very difficult time, to let them know that we understood the mass difficulties facing our neighbors and that many people are fighting to survive, fighting to get their homes back, to get their families reunited in the aftermath of a tragic storm. We were trying, but we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do.”
NFL teams paid tribute to emergency personnel at every game and the Giants took food donations.
“The extra disappointment comes from knowing that our fans were counting on this, these couple of hours out of their week to be an escape from reality,” Giants standout Mathias Kiwanuka said. “We didn’t deliver the win we wanted to give them.”
Roethlisberger flipped a four-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, but the reigning Super Bowl champions equalized on Andre Brown’s one-yard touchdown run.
On the next Steelers’ possession, “Big Ben” was hit while trying to pass and New York’s Michael Boley returned the fumble 70 yards for a touchdown.
Shaun Suisham kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut New York’s halftime lead to 14-10, but Scotsman Lawrence Tynes answered from 23 and 50 yards to make it 20-10.
However, Roethlisberger connected with Mike Wallace on a 51-yard touchdown pass and Isaac Redman scored the winning touchdown for the Steelers on a one-yard run with 4 minutes, 2 seconds left.
Michael Turner scored Atlanta’s only touchdown on a three-yard run early in the fourth quarter as the Falcons, the NFL’s only unbeaten team, improved to 8-0 with a 19-13 home victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
Division leaders Chicago and Houston both improved to 7-1 with lopsided triumphs, the Bears routing hosts the Tennessee Titans 51-20 for their sixth consecutive victory and the Texans crushing the visiting Buffalo Bills 21-9.
Chicago’s Brandon Marshall caught nine passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns from Jay Cutler, Matt Forte ran for 103 yards and a touchdown, while Brian Urlacher returned an interception for a touchdown.
Houston’s Matt Schaub completed 19-of-27 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while Arian Foster ran for 111 yards and a touchdown to continue the best start in Texans history.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 14-of-30 passes for 218 yards and four touchdown passes as Green Bay beat visiting Arizona 31-17, giving the Packers (6-3) their fourth victory in a row and the Cardinals (4-5) a fifth loss in a row.
Baltimore and Denver enhanced their division leads with road victories, the Ravens rallying late for a 25-15 victory over the Cleveland Browns, while Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns as the Broncos took a 31-23 triumph against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Baltimore’s Joe Flacco flipped a 19-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith to give the Ravens (6-2) the lead for good on their way to beating the Browns (2-7) for a 10th consecutive time.
Manning completed 27-of-35 passes for 291 yards to spark the Broncos to a third win in a row and a 5-3 record to top the American Football Conference West.
Top draft pick Andrew Luck threw for an NFL rookie-record 433 yards, hitting 30-of-48 passes, as hosts Indianapolis edged the Miami Dolphins 23-20. The Colts (5-3) have won three in a row, while Miami (4-4) had a three-game winning streak snapped.
Also on Sunday, the Detroit Lions beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-14, the Carolina Panthers defeated the Washington Redskins 21-13, the Seattle Seahawks downed the Minnesota Vikings 30-20 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers overcame the Oakland Raiders 42-32.
Additional reporting by staff writer