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Jason Sehorn’s onside kick touchdown return deserves to be remembered more than it is

Sehorn’s famous cartwheel interception happened two weeks later, but this play was also pivotal for the Giants.

This week, we’re celebrating some of our favorite random plays and obscure moments in NFL history — those that WE will never forget, even if others have. Welcome to “Who Remembers?” Week at SB Nation NFL.

Jason Sehorn has had an interesting life outside of his NFL career. He played minor league baseball, guest starred on an NBC drama, and even proposed to his second wife, Angie Harmon, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

His play on the field wasn’t too shabby, either. Sehorn played eight seasons for the New York Giants and had a solid six-year stretch from 1996-2002. He recorded 19 interceptions during that time frame, returning four of them for scores. His best season as a pro came in 1996, when Sehorn led the league with five forced fumbles and was third on the Giants in tackles (97), to go along with his team-high five interceptions.

Although his numbers for the rest of his career really never topped those, Sehorn was still productive for the New York defense.

Sehorn is often remembered for his interception against the Eagles in the 2001 Divisional Round.

It was his famous “cartwheel interception,” where he punched the ball up in the air to keep it off the ground. Then while rolling on his back, he caught it and ran the pick back for a touchdown in New York’s 20-10 win.

However, there is one more wacky play Sehorn should be remembered for, and it took place just two weeks prior.

Sehorn sealed home-field advantage with an unlikely touchdown

In their final game of the 2000 regular season, the Giants had a chance to clinch the top seed in the NFC with a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. For the majority of the game, it looked like this goal was in jeopardy. Jacksonville stymied the Giants’ offense, especially Tiki Barber, who was held to just 78 rushing yards. At the start of fourth quarter, New York was down, 10-7.

Things picked up from there. The Giants took the lead on a Kerry Collins touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard, and the defense stepped up too. Ryan Phillips picked off Mark Brunell and then they stopped the Jaguars on a fourth-and-5. Two plays later, New York added another score, this time when Collins connected with Amani Toomer for a 54-yard touchdown.

Suddenly, it was 21-10 and the Giants looked well on their way to their 12th win. Then, Jacksonville made it a three-point game with exactly two minutes left on the clock with a touchdown followed by a two-point conversion.

The Jaguars lined up for an onside kick, which brought back painful memories in New York. In the 1997 Wild Card Round, Giants fans watched in horror as the Minnesota Vikings recovered an onside kick late in the fourth quarter in the midst of a furious rally which saw the visitors walk away with a 23-22 win.

When the Giants brought out their hands teams, Sehorn took the field. He had been a returner before, but stopped following a play when he was stretchered off the field due to an injury on a kick return during a preseason game in 1998 against the Jets.

The majority of the Jaguars players lined up on the left side of the field as Mike Hollis’ kick pinged high into the New York sky. Chaos ensued during that brief second when the ball was floating up. However, there was no Jaguars player even near the ball. Everyone was bunched up along the sideline, creating a clear path for Sehorn.

Sehorn caught the kick and took off toward the end zone. He raced in and gave the Giants a 28-18 lead with less than two minutes left on a rare onside kick return for a touchdown.

Returning an onside kick for a touchdown is as weird as it is unique. A lot of things have to bounce your way, literally and metaphorically. The most recent time we saw an opposing team score off this play was when the Colts returned an onside kick against the Jaguars (of all teams) to seal a 34-24 victory in 2010.

New York walked away with a win against Jacksonville in that Week 17 clash, thanks in large part to Sehorn. To add to the legend, his kick return ended up being the winning touchdown as Jacksonville scored on the ensuing possession to make the final score 28-25. When Jacksonville tried a final onside kick, it was Sehorn again who caught it.

It made the road to the Super Bowl go through New York

Sehorn’s play sparked the Giants and helped reinforce their motto of being the underdog that season.

“Nobody ever thought we would be here,” defensive tackle Keith Hamilton told ESPN after the win against Jacksonville. “We’re just going to keep playing hard and they can doubt us all the way to Tampa.”

Hamilton’s words became partially true: New York’s season did end in Tampa with an appearance in Super Bowl 35, where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. It was still a fantastic season for the Giants, one which many didn’t expect.

The two previous years under Jim Fassel were disappointing when New York went 7-9 and 8-8 in 1998 and 1999, respectively. Expectations were mild for 2000 — they were ranked in the middle of the pack to start the season. In fact, they weren’t projected to be the best team in their division. But the Giants kept surprising teams.

They ended up being the NFC East champions with a 12-4 record and finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak. The Week 17 victory helped them clinch the top seed in the NFC and gave them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Playing in front of their home fans gave New York a boost as they beat Philly and then stomped the Vikings by 41 in the NFC title game.

Although Sehorn’s onside kick return has slipped through the cracks of time, it shouldn’t be that way. It was an extraordinary moment, as both a standalone play and for what it meant to the Giants.