By Alex Distefano
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"One reason that I brought E-Mac back here this year is his mental toughness," said Fassel. "He steps into situations and battles for you." He'll be relied on to do so again this weekend against the Vikings' aerial attack led by receivers Randy Moss and Cris Carter.
Ryan Phillips, linebacker
Another under-appreciated member of the Giants' defense, Phillips has played well in the shadow of the All-Pro Armstead and free-agent signee Mike Barrow. He has been solid against the run all season and even made the occasional big play, including a key second-half interception in Big Blue's home-field-advantage-clinching victory over Jacksonville last month. On Sunday, he alertly stepped out of coverage to tackle the nimble McNabb and hold him to a meaningless two-yard gain. After the game, defensive coordinator Fox cited Phillips, a third-round draft choice out of Idaho in 1997, as one of the central players in the defense's effort to contain McNabb, who had rushed for 629 yards during the regular season but only 17 on Sunday. This week, Phillips and the Giants will face a similar challenge against the Vikings' mobile QB Daunte Culpepper, who ran for 470 yards during the regular season.
"It seems like we face a quarterback who can run every week," Phillips joked after the game. "But that's my job: to keep the other team's rushers contained and bring them back to the middle of the field so that Jessie and Mike can make the tackle. It's not something the fans are going to notice, and it's not going to do much for my stats, but as long as my teammates notice, that's what's important to me."
A jovial Phillips added, "The only glamorous guy on our team is [Sehorn]." That may or may not be true. But what is true is that the Giants have earned the right to face yet another team loaded with more marquee namesCarter, Moss, Culpepper, Robert Smith, and John Randle, for startersbut not nearly as much momentum.
"That's what's been great about our team this year: We've been a team," glamour boy Sehorn told the Voicerecently. "You can't single out one guy. Everyone in this locker room has contributed." If they continue to do so, all of the Giants will have a chance to shine in Tampa, site of Super Bowl XXXV later this month.