Vikings playmaker Moss gathers Giants' attention

Corners Sehorn, Thomas face major challenge in trying to stop receiver

January 14, 2001|By BERGEN (N.J.) RECORD

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Randy Moss taking a 1-yard pass and turning it into a 68-yard touchdown probably was the second-best play of last weekend's NFL playoff action. The man who authored the No. 1 play certainly took notice of it.

"That's why you can't afford to fall asleep," Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn said of Moss' effort against the New Orleans Saints last week. "One play, one mental lapse, and you're gone. It was just a hitch, and they do it often. People play so far off him, they throw him a hitch and see what he can do. And you see what he can do."

Sehorn, whose juggling, grabbing-it-as-he-got-off-the-ground interception and touchdown return against Philadelphia was arguably the weekend's best play, will see plenty of Moss today when the Minnesota Vikings come to Giants Stadium for the NFC championship game.

Moss and Cris Carter form one of the league's top wide-out tandems, and how Sehorn and fellow cornerback Dave Thomas handle them should have a great impact on which team goes to Super Bowl XXXV.

"You look at last week," Thomas said. "Moss had two catches. That sounds like they shut him down. But he made something like 120 yards and scored two touchdowns with them. That's not shutting him down."

Carter had 120 receiving yards on five catches as the duo destroyed the Cinderella Saints. With first-year starter Daunte Culpepper firing the ball, the two combined for 173 catches for 2,711 yards and 24 touchdowns during the regular season.

"As a pair they remind me of Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell in Jacksonville," said Thomas, a former Jaguar. "Moss is fast and explosive like Smith. Carter is a great possession receiver like McCardell. The difference is about 3 or 4 inches."

The 6-foot-4 Moss and the 6-3 Carter are two of the tallest pass-catchers in the league. They enjoyed a huge advantage over the Saints' corners, 5-9 Kevin Mathis and 5-10 Alex Molden. But the 6-3 Thomas and the 6-2 Sehorn should negate some of that height advantage.

Just how the two corners will match up against the two receivers remains to be seen. Logic says the athletic, faster Sehorn would handle the athletic, faster Moss, while the stronger, more physical Thomas would take on the stronger, more physical Carter. However, that won't always be the case.

"You don't want to leave one guy out there the whole game with anybody," said Sehorn, who normally spends most of the time shadowing the other team's top outside threat. "You want to change up your looks to them."

"There will be times we have to line up straight left and right because of the defensive call," Thomas said. "The key will be knowing where your help is coming from."

When the season started, the feeling was Thomas, elevated to a starting position when Conrad Hamilton's knee failed to come around, would require plenty of help to survive. His size certainly was a plus, but his lack of foot speed was a negative.

"Dave has held up very well," said coach Jim Fassel, whose defensive coordinator, John Fox, gave Thomas more one-on-one coverage responsibilities as the season progressed. "He really has come on this season. I think one of the biggest improvements this football team has made this year has been in pass coverage."

Said Thomas: "We've been tested week after week by good receivers. But this week we are going up against the best."

"You really think about being embarrassed when it's Randy Moss," Sehorn said. "He's always making big plays because he's just better than people. And that's what scares you."

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