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Giants trying to fix their defense, which ranks last in the NFL

Running back Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks

Running back Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks scores a touchdown during the first quarter off the game against the New York Giants at CenturyLink Field on Nov. 9, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. Credit: Getty Images / Steve Dykes

Cullen Jenkins said the approach is the same, whether you are the best team in the league or the worst. Funny he should mention that because the Giants are, in fact, the worst team in the league -- when it comes to defense.

"You try to master your strengths and improve your weaknesses," the defensive tackle said. "For us, our strengths right now are not many and our weaknesses are a lot."

The Giants currently are ranked last in the league in defense -- they allow 404.9 yards per game. They also are ranked last in run defense having allowed 144.7 yards per game (both due in no small part to the big chunks of yardage by the Seahawks on Sunday). The Giants are on pace to allow 439 points, which would be second-most in team history and 12 more than in 2009. That was the one and only year in which Bill Sheridan was the defensive coordinator. It was considered by many to be the low point for a franchise that has been built on defensive dominance.

This last month has been the worst stretch of defense the Giants have played. Worst as in worse ever. It's the first time in their history they have allowed at least 423 total yards to four straight opponents.

"It's tough to hear," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said of the long list of anti-superlatives that can describe this unit.

Even without those concrete measurements, it's hard to defend this defense.

"I've never really been a guy who pays attention to the rankings," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I pay attention to how we do on a week-to-week basis and right now our performances haven't been up to par. There have been some poor performances."

Other players are aware of (or have been made aware of it by the coaching staff) the sobering standings and poor statistics.

"We know it, we're aware of it, and we have to change it," Jenkins said. "We need to hit some switch or do something to get things going. Not just going a little bit in the right direction, we need to get things to where they should have been from Day One where we're playing at a high level and we strike fear into other teams."

There doesn't seem to be much fear coming from this week's opponent, the 49ers. Not only did they enjoy a rousing overtime win in New Orleans on Sunday, they also got to watch Russell Wilson torch the Giants with the kind of read-options that they also can run with Colin Kaepernick.

"They got hit on a couple quarterback sucker plays and a few zone-read keepers by the quarterback that amounted to some big yardage," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said yesterday. "I anticipate that will be fixed by the time we play."

That may be a high expectation. It's one the Giants are trying to accomplish, though, and not only against those option plays.

"You can always adjust what you do," Tom Coughlin said, adding that he does not intend to make any changes in the coaching structure. He has, though, spent some extra time with the defensive staff overseeing their preparations and taking a little bit more of a hands-on approach.

"I don't sit in there with them while they're grinding away," he said, "but I was at the meeting the other day and I'll certainly spend a lot of time on the tape."

Maybe the Giants will be able to rid themselves of that dreaded No. 32 in the defensive rankings this week. They're only one yard behind the Falcons at No. 31 in total yards allowed, which works out to one-tenth of a yard in the average. But that's what separates the Giants from being able to say they are only one of the worst units in the league, not the worst in the league.

"You don't want to be last in anything," Jenkins said. "You want to be the best. Being last, no matter how you got there, you're last. We've got to do better. We have to get out of that."

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