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Key fight takes place in trenches

Forget Moss-Sehorn, Strahan-Stringer could dictate the NFC title.


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 14, 2001

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- You'll probably be seeing a lot of Randy Moss and Jason Sehorn performing their balletic downfield duel today. If you're lucky, you may get a few glimpses of the thunderous meetings of Korey Stringer and Michael Strahan.

They may not be as graceful as Moss and Sehorn going after Daunte Culpepper's passes. They could, however, be more important in determining whether Culpepper gets his passes off -- and therefore whether the Vikings, or the Giants, make it to the Super Bowl.

Stringer is Minnesota's right tackle. Strahan is New York's left defensive end.

"As the defensive line goes, so goes the defense," Strahan said.

Stringer was named All-Pro this season. Strahan was All-Pro from 1997-99. The Giant was in a playful mood when asked about that.

"I'm not even a Pro Bowler this year! I'm an alternate," he said with mock anger. "I'm an unrespected player. They don't think I'm that good anymore. ... I'm just a regular old dude."

Stringer will be trying to use his 6-foot-4, 346-pound (probably more) body to keep Strahan's 6-5, 268-pound body from crashing into Culpepper and Robert Smith and leaving the quarterback and running back strewn on the Giants Stadium turf like so much detritus.

"You just can't shut down one aspect of their game," Strahan said. "You shut down the run and they have the most dangerous receivers in the game. You shut down the pass and they have one of the most dangerous running games in the league. It's a double-edged sword. You don't know which side to grab."

Stringer and Strahan each played a big role last weekend.

Stringer helped keep La'Roi Glover and the rest of the Saints (the NFL's individual and team sack leaders, respectively) from laying a hand on Culpepper, one reason the ball twice wound up Moss' hands for touchdown passes of 53 and 68 yards.

Strahan roared past Philadelphia's 6-7, 330-pound right tackle, Jon Runyan, like a big rig passing a hitchhiker on the New Jersey Turnpike. He finished with two of the Giants' six sacks of Donovan McNabb.

When it comes to pass-rushing for the Giants, Strahan said, "I guess I would be the one person that somebody would single out and say he was going to have to have a big game. I expect it out of myself. This is the biggest game of my career and I've got to show up and play well."

The Giants defense, he added, "is on fire right now. They play with a great deal of intensity. They're having fun in what they're doing. That's a big part of playing well."

Stringer calls Strahan "a complete player." With some, their strength is rushing the passer; others play better against the run. Strahan, he said, "does both really well. He makes an effort to always be around the ball. ...

"You've got to respect his game. It's just his strength. He's got very long arms. He knows how to use his hand placements to throw you off balance. He's well-suited to that position," Stringer said.

"You have some guys who hate playing against the run," Strahan said earlier this season. "They just want to rush the passer. But how can you consider yourself a complete player if you don't do both?

"It's so simple to have a guy come off the bench just to pass rush. You're fresh; the other guy has been out there taking the brunt of the beating playing the run. That's where you get worn out, that's when you get beat up. You don't get beat up playing the pass rush too often. I like to do both. I want that guy to see my face on the run and the pass. It's a matter of who is going to break down first."

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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