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A gem of a play

In a postseason of defense, Sehorn's play stands out

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Thursday January 25, 2001 9:37 AM
Updated: Thursday January 25, 2001 10:38 AM

By John Donovan, CNNSI.com

 
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Dumbest Thing ...
The Bottom Line

TAMPA, Fla. -- If there is one play that typifies the New York Giants' gritty season, a season that began with promise, slid close to mediocrity, then took off into this Sunday's Super Bowl, you'd have to look at the Giants' defense.

That makes the choice easy. There's really no question. In a season dominated by defense, culminating in a Super Bowl that may see nothing but that, Jason Sehorn's interception against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC divisional playoff game on January 7 wins Play of the Year.

"You won't see a play like that," says Giants cornerback Dave Thomas, "ever again in the NFL."

As the Giants prepare to meet the defense-mad Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV here Sunday night, the play still resonates. It is, in many minds, the most spectacular interception in the history of the Giants. Many, like Thomas, think it might be the best ever.

It began as an all-out dive, rolled into a tip drill, morphed into an acrobatic rise from the turf and finished, 32 yards later, in a touchdown that pretty much sealed the win over the Eagles.

Even Sehorn stops in wonderment now when he thinks about it.

"Lots of players on this team just kind of looked at the replay on the sidelines going 'I don't know how [he] did that,'" Sehorn says. "That's one of those plays where I don't know how I did that. So I'm right there with them."

Truth be told, though, Sehorn was in complete control the whole play. It started when Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb tried to hook up with wide receiver Torrance Small on a sideline route in the second quarter of the game at Giants Stadium.

Sehorn, racked by injuries in recent years yet still considered one of the best athletes in the league, sniffed the route and dove for the almost perfectly placed pass. He knocked it away and, as he rolled to the turf, he had the presence of mind to tip the deflection back in the air.

It was a fluky play, but this was no fluke.

"All I remember is diving for the ball, then getting up," he says. "I don't remember the in-between part. I know, after watching on the replays, your first reaction is to keep the ball alive. I just wanted to tip the ball to myself."

The ball fluttered in the air and Sehorn, temporarily on his back but immediately rising from the grass, plucked it out of the air, avoided one of his teammates and ran down the sidelines for the score.

"You just have to be at the right place at the right time," Sehorn says.

The thing is, Sehorn made sure he was at the right place at the right time. And then he made sure he would make the play.

"Now I know this. When I saw it on TV replay, on a clear screen, my eyes were the size of softballs," he says. "My pupils were [focused] on the ball."

Says Thomas: "Having the presence of mind of getting up while you're about to recover the ball -- that's something special."

Sehorn says he may never make another play as good. He certainly doesn't expect it. But he's glad he was there for that one.

"The nice thing about having that play is people always ask me, 'What's your greatest play, or your greatest moment?'" he says. "I've got mine now."

On to the Super Bowl Day at a Glance and this question. Hyped out yet?

The answer: If not, you will be. You will be.

The hump
For the players, Thursday is the final day they are required to meet with the media as a whole. They'll do some promotions Friday and Saturday, some spots for TV. But, mainly, once they get through Thursday, it's time to think about the game. For most of them, anyway.
Defense
It's a recurring theme, when football is talked about. Better get used to it. The latest wrinkle: The Baltimore secondary is suspect. We'll believe it when we see it.
Guarantees
Ahhh, they're nonsense. Someone asks Ray Lewis if the Ravens are going to win, he says yes, all the sudden everyone in the room is looking up how to spell "Namath."
Flag -- Ray Lewis:
This is his last chance this week to say, with meaning, that he had nothing to do with the murders but he feels for the victims' families and grieves with them. It's that simple.
Flattery -- Tom McEwen:
The Tampa Tribune columnist built sports in this city, and now steps away with this, his last Super Bowl. Gracious, funny, dedicated, they just don't come like McEwen any more.
Flattery -- Ernie Accorsi:
The Giants' veteran front-office man is smart, upfront as anyone in his position, gives credit where it's due -- and we like to think the Super Bowl is his reward.
Flattery -- Tags:
Like him or not, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue presides over America's favorite sports league and steps out this week during its final weekend to crow about its success.
Super Bowl week is about a day too long. Which is why, if trouble is coming, it usually comes in the later part of the week.
Our favorite part about this game: With two mean defenses, wouldn't it be fitting if a wimpy kicker decided the thing?
Giants cornerback Dave Thomas (not of Wendy's fame) must feel like Jason Sehorn's kid brother at times. Underappreciated, we mean.
"This [team] is Mr. Modell's daughter, and we've got his daughter to the dance, and now we're going to try to finish it for him."
-- Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis
After Thursday, the biggest practices are done. Most of the players' media obligations are finished. But the pressures from friends and families and hangers-on -- and, oh yeah, the game -- are in many ways just starting.

 
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