Samuel's Value Cannot Be Overstated

New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel won the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award for his Week 12 performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. While the award was nice, it was Samuel who sparked the Patriots defense enough to secure the win. Without Samuel, things could have turned out much differently.

While the Player of the Week award was a nice touch for Samuel's resume, the reality is that without Samuel making those plays the Patriots' defense had been shredded like a slab of Swiss cheese. Samuel, who had a league leading 11 interception season last year, knows it's about making plays when the opportunity presents itself regardless of how the game had been going up to that point.

"That's what its about," Samuel said. " Making plays in the NFL. You never know what kind of game you are gonna have. You try to help your team out, going out and playing hard for 60 minutes, and that's what we did."

Samuel's first interception came on the third play of the game. With Adalius Thomas forcing pressure up the middle, Eagles quarterback A.J. Feeley lofted a pass over toward the sidelines for running back Brian Westbrook. Samuel stepped in front of the pass, snatched it out of the air and raced 40 yards for a touchdown.

The interception marked Samuel's fifth of the season, and his third career return for a touchdown during the regular season. It moved him to third place on the team's all time scoring return list behind Ty Law (6) and Tedy Bruschi (4).

Feeley had a field day against the Patriots, and his 345-yard, three-touchdown performance has reignited the quarterback controversy in Philadelphia. Samuel didn't feel the Eagles didn't anything unique; they just executed their game plan better.

"It's [the] west coast offense," said Samuel. "That's all it is. They did a great job out there executing with the quarterback, the backup. He came in and we tried to blitz him and we couldn't get to him and he was just lighting us up."

Eagles coach Andy Reid who was admittedly frustrated at losing the game spoke well of A.J. Feeley's play despite the interceptions; 2 by Samuel and one by James Sanders.

"You know what, I thought [Feeley] did a heck of a job," Said Reid. "I know he threw a few picks there, and he came back after that first one and rallied the troops."

Reid did credit Samuel for making the play, which snuffed out the Eagles promising fourth quarter drive to regain the lead.

"[Feeley] stayed aggressive, got the ball out fast and made a couple plays down at the end there," continue Reid. "He took a shot at the end and gave it everything he had on that last one and [Asante Samuel] snagged it."

By the fourth quarter, Feeley had the Eagles on the move, but Samuel was dialed in on the quarterback's tendencies. He actually jumped a route on a pass intended for Reggie Brown, but dropped what would have been his second interception of the game.

"I was kind of upset about that one," said Samuel of the missed opportunity. "I dropped it. It [would have been] a touchdown, another touchdown. But I made up for it. They came at me again and we won the game."

Without Samuel's contributions, the Patriots perfect record would have been in serious jeopardy. Patriots coach Bill Belichick agreed.

"Asante has great hands, good instincts and he doesn't let too many get through his hands,' Said Belichick of Samuel's performance. "He's been very good at that since he's been here and obviously did a good job of it tonight. Those two big plays, I don't know if we'd have won without them. Probably not."

With Samuel in the mix, the Patriots lead the NFL with 11 wins, while he leads the NFL with 6 interceptions.

Notes:

Other players named players of the week: Offensive player - Cincinnati Bengals' receiver Chad Johnson and Special team was awarded to Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee.

Other nominees for defensive player of the week were Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards (7 tackles 1 forced fumble) and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior (11 tackles, 0.5 sacks 1 forced fumble).

Samuel became the 20th Patriot to score a touchdown for the year. The NFL record is 21 in a season, held by the 1987 Los Angeles Rams and the 2000 Denver Broncos.

Samuel's score was the seventh return for a touchdown by the Patriots this year, second highest total in franchise history behind only the 1961 team which had 8.


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