Giants Defense Hangs First Shutout

The Minnesota Vikings' six Pro Bowl players on offense were worth 114 yards, nine first downs and zero points.

And once the New York Giants took a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter of the NFC championship game, the Vikings didn't have much fight, either.

``When you have the type of offense that we have and the type of players we have, I don't think we were meant to fight back,'' said Pro Bowl wide receiver Randy Moss, who was held to two receptions for 18 yards. ``Losing 41 to doughnut, I think that's the worst defeat I've ever been in.''

The Giants' 41-0 victory in the NFC championship game on Sunday was Dennis Green's first shutout loss in 157 regular season and playoff games in nine years as Vikings coach.

``Their defense was the whole package, and we couldn't break it down,'' Green said.

The Giants held Daunte Culpepper to 78 yards passing, sacked him four times and intercepted three of his passes.

``Their defensive line was relentless,'' said Culpepper, who averaged 240 yards passing per game during the regular season. ``At 14-0, I didn't think we were out of it, but we made mistake after mistake.''

The Giants made it 7-0 with a four-play drive after the opening kickoff, then quickly scored another touchdown after the Vikings fumbled the kickoff.

Cornerback Jason Sehorn, who covered Moss most of the day, said that quick deficit forced the Vikings out of their running game and neutralized running back Robert Smith.

``We were up 14-0 before the defense even had to step on the field, and it changed their game plan,'' Sehorn said. ``Their running game was obsolete. When you're down 14-0, 17-0, 24-0, you can't run because it takes too much time to catch up.''

Sehorn also gave credit to the Giants' front four, which kept pressure on Culpepper with few blitzes needed.

``They put so much pressure on him, he was running for his life,'' Sehorn said. ``Because the front four was doing it on their own, we didn't have to cover 1-on-1.''

Defensive coordinator John Fox said he didn't talk about the possibility of a shutout with his players, much less the public.

``You never really think or talk about a shutout, so the fact they pulled it off is to their credit,'' Fox said.

Fox said that his cornerbacks' height - Sehorn is 6-foot-2 and Dave Thomas is 6-3 - worked to the Giants' advantage.

``We matched up with Randy Moss and Cris Carter better than people gave us credit for,'' Fox said. ``They are big guys, but one thing we have is big corners. Some of those teams playing the Vikings are trying to cover Moss and Carter with 5-9 corners.''

The Giants are going to the Super Bowl after finishing 7-9 in 1999, but defensive end Michael Strahan said he was more proud of how the team responded to adversity this season.

``The sweetest thing was not how we played after last year, but the way we came back from 7-4 this year and won every game since then,'' Strahan said. ``No one thought we would get this far when we were 7-4.''