Samuel might have played last night, but it seemed wiser, surely, to let him miss the game against the Bears and rest his knee for a full 10 days. He then could play Thursday against the Texans and their superior passing attack. He then could get 9 more days of rest before heading to Dallas.
A sound plan, in theory.
Without the threat of Samuel's ballhawking, Jay Cutler dissected the Eagles' secondary for four touchdowns and no interceptions, with 247 passing yards on 14 of 21 passing. Dimitri Patterson started alongside regular nickel corner Joselio Hanson with rookie Trevard Lindley playing the nickel role. It was Lindley's sixth game. He was deactivated last week.
"You could kind of tell we missed him," said safety Quintin Mikell. "Asante brings a lot to the table."
"You can't replace a guy like that," Hanson said. "It's tough, being out there on an island. We played a lot of man-to-man, it seemed."
Cutler took advantage. His career-high passer rating of 146.2 is his best of the season by almost 10 points and it is about nine points shy of perfection.
He entered at 84.2 for the season. He had thrown 10 interceptions and fumbled four times with 12 TD passes in his nine games. In one three-game stretch Cutler was sacked 19 times. He had thrown seven interceptions in his last four games.
Meanwhile, the Eagles defense had been smothering superstar quarterbacks. Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb and Eli Manning combined for a 63.5 passer rating.
Not coincidentally, the Birds compiled eight interceptions in those games. Samuel had four of them.
The Eagles also sacked that trio a total of 13 times. They got to Cutler four times, but he generally was less molested than the other passers. The Eagles also missed starting defensive end Juqua Parker (hip), who said his status for Thursday's game is up in the air.
Samuel's presence trickles down thus:
He plays the opposition's top receiver; his gambles and good hands can flip momentum, striking fear into quarterbacks; his abilities allow safeties to help more on the other side; and his talents mean that lazy, hurried throws forced by harried, blitzed quarterbacks turn into turnovers.Without Samuel, despite some pass-rush successes, the Birds obviously were less assertive, especially early in the game.
"I wish we would've challenged them more in the beginning," Hanson said. "The first quarter, I wish we'd come out a little more aggressive."
"Maybe we should have been a little more aggressive," Mikell agreed. "Still, this is the first time I've seen our guys put in this situation and they didn't respond."
Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said the game plan would not have changed had Samuel been available; that he would have blitzed no more or less.
"The scheme remained the same," McDermott said.
"It doesn't matter," said head coach Andy Reid, perhaps with a lack of rationality. "The next guy comes in and he's got to play."
Well, it kind of matters, when the player who is getting replaced is your No. 2 defender who makes $9 million.
At least it sounds as if Samuel coming back to work.