EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is sticking with Bill Sheridan as his defensive coordinator.
Hours after the 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 eight games.
The slump has dropped New York a game behind Dallas (8-5) in the race for the final wild-card berth, and much of it can be traced to the play of the defense.
After getting off to a 5-0 start, the defense has given up an average of more than 32 points in its past eight games, including three games where the opposition has scored 40 or more points.
New York ranks No. 28 in points allowed, leading only Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Kansas City, teams who have combined for seven wins.
"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 would not be a rash move for Coughlin. He relieved then-offensive coordinator John Hufnagel and replaced him with current coordinator Kevin Gilbride with a 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 coach of the St. Louis Rams.
"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 in the third quarter, 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 only sent out two receivers on first down. The Giants were in a two-deep zone in which the safeties are not 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 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, getting behind Johnson, who didn't drop deep enough and never saw him coming across.
Safety Aaron Ross made a mad dash across the field to try to knock the pass down, 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 on Monday, most felt that 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."
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 that he is concerned with the season and a playoff berth still on the line. The Giants play at Washington next Monday night.
"We're still in it," he said. "We're just going to make the corrections and move on."
OT Kareem McKenzie has a sprained left knee and his status is uncertain. Coughlin said the injury could sideline his right tackle a couple of weeks, but he 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.