Vikings shutout for first time under Green
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Even the New York Giants thought they might need 30 points to beat Minnesota.
As it turned out, the Giants had all the points they needed less than two minutes into the game as their defense treated the Vikings, with six Pro Bowl players on offense, like they were just another obstacle on the way to the Super Bowl.
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 over nine years as the Vikings' head 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. "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 scored another touchdown after the Vikings fumbled the kickoff.
Cornerback Jason Sehorn, who covered Randy Moss most of the day and held him to two catches for 18 yards, 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."