Former Patriot Has His Day

Asante Samuel

When the New England Patriots let Asante Samuel go, they knew they were losing a key part of theri defense. Samuel has thrived in Philadelphia, even extending his playoff record last weekend.

When the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings 26-14 in the NFC Wildcard round of the playoffs on Sunday, they had a little help from some former Patriots. One of them ended up in the record books.

Former New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel set a new NFL postseason record on Sunday with his sixth interception returned for a touchdown. Samuel stepped in front of a second quarter pass by Tavaris Jackson, and returned it 44 yards for the score. The play helped

Samuel had been fighting through a hip injury that limited his playing time, returning to the field just prior to the interception. Understanding the importance of the postseason, the veteran corner explained the playoffs were no time to sit it out on the sidelines.

"That's when it's time to step your game up. Samuel said after the game. "You have the preseason, regular season, the postseason, and Super Bowl. You have to step your game up. From the preseason you have to bring it up a notch for the regular season, playoffs and so on. That's what I try to do."

The interception return for a touchdown puts him in first the record books ahead of Oakland Raiders Willie Brown.

The accomplishment pleased the Eagles starter. "It's awesome, and I've got the record, too, and that makes it even better," he told the Philadelphia Daily News. "Hopefully that can help me get in the Hall of Fame."

Samuel joined the Eagles in 2008 after signing a 6-year $57 million contract in the off-season. The former Patriot was franchised by the New England in 2007, his first year of free agency. He returned to play for New England with the agreement that the team would not use the franchise tag on him again in 2008.

The Eagles were eager to boost their secondary by adding a talented ballhawk to their roster, giving Samuel a contract with $20 million in guarantees.

With the win, the Eagles advance in the playoffs to face their NFC East rival, the New York Giants. For Samuel, it's a familiar opponent. He faced the Giants three times in 2007, pre-season, regular season and the Patriots 17-14 loss in the Super Bowl. As a member of the Eagles, he's facing them for the third time this season.

When asked if anyone else has seen them more then him, Samuel said " I guess not. I think I have faced them more than anybody."

He's hoping this third time is the charm.

Eckel Leaves His Mark

Former Patriots fullback Kyle Eckel helped the special teams unit with a solid hit to start off the third quarter. Eckel leveled kick returner Maurice Hicks at the Vikings 15 yard line setting the tone in the 16-14 contest. A member of the Patriots in 2005, 07 and 08, Eckel was released by New England during the 2008 season. He joined fellow former Patriot Dan Klecko who signed with the Eagles in March.


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