EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Something strange got in the way between Asante Samuel and his fifth career postseason interception return for a touchdown.
After securing an interception in the first quarter of the Eagles' 23-11 win over the Giants in the NFC Divisional playoff on Sunday, Samuel weaved his way from the New York 27-yard line down to the two before getting tackled by, of all people, Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Samuel not reaching the end zone was arguably the worst thing that happened to the Eagles defense at the Meadowlands, where they eliminated the defending Super Bowl champions.
"You know I was trying to get to the end zone," Samuel said. "Eli made a good tackle. I tried to run him over, but he had his big boy pads on. He kind of stopped me from getting in the end zone. But it's all good. Next time I'll try to jump over his head or something."
With Philadelphia trailing 3-0 midway through the first quarter, Manning dropped back to throw on first-and-10 from his own 13-yard line. Photo Gallery : PHI vs. NYG 1-11-09
While Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon ran a crossing route, Samuel dropped into coverage and read Manning's eyes.
"I was just reading the quarterback," Samuel said. "He kind of made a bad throw and an opportunity presented itself."
Manning, who was under heavy pressure, threw a pass off of his back foot that sailed over Hixon's head. Samuel corralled the errant toss which set up the Eagles' first touchdown. It was an extra special pick for Samuel. Last year in the Super Bowl as a member of the New England Patriots, Manning threw an errant pass along the right sideline that Samuel jumped up high to grab but couldn't secure. The Giants scored the championship-winning touchdown later on that same drive. On this day, the MVP from that Super Bowl was 15-of-29 for 169 yards, two interceptions and a 40.7 QB rating.
"I cradled it real nice," Samuel said. "I finally caught one of his passes. I done dropped about three of them. I finally caught one. It couldn't come at a better time."
Besides adding 25 yards to up his NFL postseason record to 317 interception return yards, he tied Patriots defensive back Rodney Harrison for most postseason interceptions by active players with seven.
But that's exactly why the Eagles signed Samuel last offseason, to be a game-changer.
"It was a great pickup," fellow cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "When he has an opportunity to make a play, he makes them."
And he's proven to be worth every penny of his lucrative six-year deal.
"It's awesome, man," Samuel said. "When I was a free agent, picking teams is kind of a hard thing to do. I couldn't come in to a better situation. We have a great defense, a good team, the fans are great and the city is great."
He seems to having a very good time, even if he couldn't get past Manning into the end zone.
"The only thing we're mad at is that he didn't score with it," free safety Brian Dawkins said. "That's what he does. He sits back and waits and baits and gets his hands on the football."