Giants coach Coughlin stands by defensive coordinator after defeat

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is sticking with Bill Sheridan as his defensive coordinator.

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Hours after the Giants' defense gave another pitiful performance in a 45-38 loss to the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, Coughlin on Monday gave Sheridan a vote of confidence, saying he was satisfied with the game plans developed by his rookie coordinator.

"I am disappointed in the results, obviously," Coughlin said after the Giants (7-6) lost for the sixth time in their last eight games.

The slump has dropped New York one game behind the Dallas Cowboys (8-5) in the race for the final NFC wild-card berth, and much of it can be traced to the play of the Giants' defense.

After the team started the season 5-0, the defense has given up an average of more than 32 points in its past eight games, including three games in which the opposition has scored 40 or more points.

The Giants rank No. 28 in points allowed, leading just the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs -- teams that have combined for seven wins this season.

"Sure, I let him know my support for him, and I also let him know it has to be better," Coughlin said. "We've got to do a better job. We're here for one reason. The inconsistency part of it is disturbing, let's face it. Six big play passes and three big play runs. You're not going to beat anybody like that."

Changing coordinators with three games left in the season wouldn't be a rash move for Coughlin. He relieved then-offensive coordinator John Hufnagel and replaced him with current coordinator Kevin Gilbride with one game left in the 2006 season.

Cornerback Terrell Thomas said the defense still has confidence in Sheridan, who was elevated from linebackers coach to coordinator after Steve Spagnuolo was hired as the St. Louis Rams' coach.

"This is his first year and everybody is tough on him," Thomas said. "But at the same time we are professionals and we have to execute our jobs and do it. It's not always on him. He can call the right play, but if we don't execute it, there is nothing he can do."

A perfect example of Sheridan calling the right play and having it backfire came during the third quarter Sunday, seconds after the Giants took a 31-30 lead on a 61-yard scoring pass from Eli Manning to Domenik Hixon.

The Eagles returned the ball to the 40-yard line on the kickoff, and Donovan McNabb sent out just two receivers on a first-down play. The Giants were in a two-deep zone in which the safeties aren't supposed to let anyone get behind them. The problem was that Michael Johnson was on the right side, and he moved up to concentrate on backup Eagles tight end Alex Smith instead of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, a player who Sheridan harped on all week as one that had to be watched.

Jackson lined up on the opposite side of the field and ran a deep crossing pattern, running behind Johnson, who didn't drop deep enough and never saw the receiver coming across the field.

Safety Aaron Ross made a mad dash across the field to try to knock down the pass, but he got there a step late, and Jackson had an easy touchdown.

"When you see he is wide open, there is a sick feeling in your stomach," said Ross, a cornerback who was starting his first game at safety.

Of the few defenders who spoke to the media Monday, most believed the Giants can fix the problems on defense, noting they are the result of a lack of execution and miscommunications.

"As a defense, we buy into the scheme," linebacker Michael Boley said. "You know if we had doubts, we wouldn't be out there trying to execute it."

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Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said that Sheridan is as good as anyone with Xs and Os. The problem is the defense is just making too many mistakes.

"As a player, you don't look past execution," Kiwanuka said. "Regardless of what is called, if we execute 100 percent, we should be able to come out with the win. We are good enough athletes that we should be able to overcome anything, any problems that might be had. But we can't get that far because we're not executing."

Kiwanuka said he is concerned with the season and a playoff berth still on the line. The Giants visit the NFC East rival Washington Redskins next Monday night.

"We're still in it," Kiwanuka said. "We're just going to make the corrections and move on."

Notes:Giants OT Kareem McKenzie has a sprained left knee, and his status is uncertain. Coughlin said the injury could sideline his right tackle for a couple of weeks, but the coach added that McKenzie has been a quick healer. ... CB Corey Webster also sprained his left knee, but he is being listed day to day. ... Giants players will have the next two days off.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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