EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) If the New York Giants are going to end their four-year playoff drought, Eli Manning and the offense have to improve and quickly.
The Giants (8-4) saw their six-game winning streak end Sunday with a 24-14 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
The blame can be put squarely on the offense. It was held to 234 yards, needed help from the defense and special teams to produce two touchdowns, and allowed the Steelers to get on the board first when left tackle Ereck Flowers was called for holding in the end zone.
It would be easy to say it was simply a bad game for the offense. It's been the norm lately.
''When we see the film, we see there are opportunities there,'' Ben McAdoo said Monday when asked about the offensive problems. ''Again, the unforced errors and the setbacks when you're playing inconsistent football on the offensive side, they're hard to overcome. That's where we are right now.''
Manning made the biggest mistake Sunday, trying to squeeze a pass to tight end Larry Donnell on second-and-4 from the Steelers 9-yard line with New York down 5-0. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons intercepted the pass and returned it 58 yards to set up another Pittsburgh touchdown.
It was a big mistake and New York never recovered. The Giants' defense gave the offense chances, but it failed to capitalize.
''Right now we believe we have the players and the scheme to make a run at this thing, McAdoo said. ''We know we need to get back to work, we need to get some pads on this week if that's the smart thing and the right thing to do based on the injury report and player health, we'll do that. We need to play good football on Sunday.''
The Giants have a huge game this weekend with Dallas (11-1) coming to MetLife Stadium. If the Cowboys' win, they clinch the NFC East.
New York still has the best record in the race for the wild-card spot, but Tampa Bay (7-5), Washington (6-5-1), Minnesota (6-6) and Green Bay (6-6) are close with four games left.
In addition to Dallas, the Giants also have games with Detroit (8-4), Philadelphia (5-7) and Washington. It's not an easy schedule for a team struggling on offense.
In the last six games, the Giants are averaging 290.6 yards and 21.5 points. During that span the team has scored 18 touchdowns. Two have been by the defense and five other TDs have come on drives of 35 yards or less set up by takeaways by Steve Spagnuolo's unit.
A big kickoff return by Bobby Rainey on Sunday set up a meaningless 52-yard drive that Manning ended with a TD pass to Sterling Shepard.
Offensive drives, though, have been few and far between. There have been eight touchdown drives of 67 yards or more in the last six games. There were two other drives between 50 and 60 yards.
Against the Steelers, the Giants rushed for 56 yards, and their 178 net passing yards were a season low. Manning finished 24 of 39 for 195 yards, his second consecutive sub-200 yard game.
While Odell Beckham Jr. had 10 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown, Victor Cruz was not targeted once. The week before Shepard was ignored in the game against the Browns.
''I think there's a heightened sense of awareness that we need to get better and we need to improve and we need to keep working at it,'' McAdoo said.
NOTES: McAdoo had no update on the groin injury that knocked out DE Jason Pierre-Paul in the first half. ... DT Johnathan Hankins (quad) is sore, while WR/returner Dwayne Harris has an ankle injury. ... After the game Beckham said he didn't want to see referee Terry McAulay's crew working another one of his team's games this season. McAdoo would not comment on that. However, he said: ''We have a process to gain clarification on calls that are made during the course of a game. We're going to get plenty of use out of that process this week.''
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and -http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL