The Eagles jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Sunday on the back of a great performance by the offense. And the defense did its part making All-Pro running back Michael Turner a non-factor. But if it wasn't for the play of cornerback Asante Samuel, the outcome of Sunday's game might have been closer than the eventual 31-17 final score.
And to show just how important Samuel is, head coach Andy Reid referred to the Pro Bowl cornerback as "The President" when he addressed the team in the locker room following the game just before Samuel gave the game ball to quarterback Kevin Kolb.
"He had a big game. This was a big game and he knew it," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "He was out last week (with a concussion) and he couldn't wait for us to get back here and get back with the team."
After the Eagles took a 7-0 lead on DeSean Jackson's 31-yard end-around in the first quarter, the Falcons tried to answer with a drive of their own. On a first-and-10 from the Eagles' 23-yard line, Samuel perfectly read the route that wide receiver Michael Jenkins ran, jumped it and forced an incomplete pass. Two plays later, quarterback Matt Ryan tried to test Samuel again. Samuel, however, blanketed Jenkins like a cuddled up baby on a cold, winter night. Samuel simply poked the ball away and the Falcons attempted a field goal that kicker Matt Bryant doinked off the left upright.
In the second quarter, the Eagles were armed with the 21-0 cushion but the Falcons were trying to get a comeback started. The Falcons moved the ball 52 yards to get to the Eagles' 22-yard line. They wouldn't get any farther as Ryan sailed a ball high for tight end Tony Gonzalez that was tipped into the air and intercepted by Samuel. It was Samuel's second pick of the year and his league-best 31st since 2006.
"We were in a blitz coverage. I saw them looking at Gonzalez. Once (Ryan) was looking at him, staring him down, I had to figure out whether to go for the big hit or since the ball was kind of high, I thought maybe it would tip off his hand or fly over his head," Samuel said. "I waited and made the play."
Samuel will be the first to tell you that he doesn't have elite speed. He relies on countless hours of film study to be able to perform. The three-time Pro Bowl corner can read an offense so well at times, you would think he's the intended receiver on a play. At least, that's what it seemed like in the third quarter when a Ryan pass intended for Jenkins was nearly picked off as Samuel had the better positioning for the ball. It can certainly be argued that Samuel was interfered with.
"My technique was tight coverage, so I was slightly outside of him and I was reading his hips and I saw the quarterback get ready to cock it and throw it and that's what I used," Samuel said of that third quarter play. "I believe my eyes and just go for what I know."
And while the player regarded as the best corner in the league has his own island, the player who presides over his own country helped the team earn a few extra votes with the fans Sunday.
"It means we're putting it all together and we want to keep riding the momentum," Samuel said. "It was good to get a win at home for the fans and the camaraderie of the team."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 8:00 p.m., October 18