Sackmaster Strahan gives Giants their only shot

The New York Giants have one chance and once chance only tonight to drop the daggers of defeat into the 49ers, and that chance goes by the name of Michael Strahan. The only way the Giants pull an upset over the rising Niners when the NFL makes its 2002 debut with a special Thursday evening spectacle is for Strahan to wreak havoc in the Niners' backfield like only he can, and perhaps make the big hit on quarterback Jeff Garcia that could break the 49ers.

The last time Strahan was on a football field in a game that counted, he was planting Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre into the ground to set a new NFL single-season record with 22.5 sacks. While that sack in particular hardly demonstrated Strahan's game-altering ability, Niners tackle Scott Gragg saw it so often while he was in New York that he said everybody needs to be aware it can happen at any moment.


"He would win games for us," said Gragg, who played with Strahan and the Giants from 1995-99. "That's who he is. He wins games by himself."


The Giants figure to need that kind of help. The 49ers are 3-point favorites, but that is only the odds-makers being nice because the Giants are at home. The Giants have big problems, and on paper, the Niners stack up better in just about every department. But football is played between the lines, and that's where Strahan can make a difference if he can start bouncing around Garcia – or getting the ball bouncing out of his hands.


"We realize what he is capable of doing," Garcia said. "You are always very aware of what Michael Strahan can do. He is one of the best. We realize that we have the sack master on the other side of the ball."


But the Niners have a few things working for them on their side of the ball. Lining up on the right side of the ball for San Francisco are Gragg and All-Pro guard Ron Stone, who also played several seasons for the Giants and is quite aware of Strahan's impact.


"There are ways we've got to go about helping each other out (against Strahan)," Stone said.


And that should be the only help the Niners need to get off to a 1-0 start.



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