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Eagles-Niners: Second Take

Some day-after observations after reviewing the tape of the Eagles' 27-13 win over the 49ers:


* Asante Samuel does a lot of gambling, or, perhaps more accurately, anticipating. We saw that again in the second quarter Sunday when he left his own man (Jason Hill) and jumped an underneath out route by Niners tight end Vernon Davis and registered his eighth interception of the season. He did the same thing against the Redskins late last month on one of his two interceptions in that game.

"He's got tremendous instincts and he watches film and he gets what he needs to get out of the film to be successful,'' Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said after the game. ``My hat goes off to him. He's a tremendously gifted player.''

Occasionally, Samuel's instincts are wrong and he gets burned, and it's left for a safety to try and clean up the mess. But he's been right far more often than he's been wrong.

* It's not going to happen because it's just not the way the Eagles do things. But if I were Jeff Lurie, I'd instruct Joe Banner to tear up Sheldon Brown's contract after the season and give him a new deal.

Yes, I know he's the one who signed that outdated long-term deal five years ago, and yes, I know that he's going to be 31 in March and probably only has a couple of good years left. But the guy's been an absolutely inspirational player for the defense this season, and his career-high 5 interceptions have been just a small part of it.

I'm talking about his willingness to play through a torn hamstring that would have sidelined 99.9 percent of the league's corners for at least two games. I'm talking about his forced fumble Sunday that saved Andy Reid's bacon after the coach's curious decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 29. I'm talking about him hurting his ankle late in the third quarter, limping off, getting it taped, then returning to the game 3 plays later.

In the NFL, you're paid for tomorrow rather than yesterday and today. But every now and then, you've got to make an exception. This guy is the exception. He put his unhappiness with his contract aside this season and played as hard and as well as if he were the highest paid player on the team.

* Niners safety Michael Lewis was benched his last year in Philadelphia because he became a liability in coverage, and as he proved Sunday, that's still his Achilles heel. He's terrific as an in-the-box safety, but doesn't have the speed or instincts to cut it in the passing game. Why he was playing so close to the line of scrimmage on McNabb's third-quarter overthrow of Jackson and his 59-yard fourth-quarter completion to Jackson, God only knows. Jackson blew by him both times like he was standing still.

McNabb's Day

It wasn't one of the quarterback's better days. He threw two picks for just the second time this season and his 72.2 passer rating was his third lowest in 12 starts. It was McNabb's lowest complete-game passer rating in an Eagles victory since October 23, 2005, when he had a 69.0 rating in a 20-17 win over the Chargers. That doesn't include his 0.4 rating in a win over the Dolphins in '07 that he was knocked out of early with ankle and thumb injuries.

McNabb also overthrew a wide-open DeSean Jackson on a deep pass in the third quarter that should've been a touchdown.

That said, he did make some nice plays, particularly his 19-yard touchdown pass to Jackson on the Eagles' first possession and a 59-yard completion to Jackson early in the fourth quarter that set up the Eagles' final touchdown.

Other McNabb factoids

* He was 4-for-8 in the red zone, including the TD toss to Jackson. He's got just a .437 completion percentage in the red zone this season (21-for-48), but hasn't thrown a red-zone interception yet. The line of scrimmage on that end-zone interception in the second quarter Sunday was the San Francisco 29.

* McNabb threw two interceptions for just the second time this season. The other time was the Dallas loss. Since 2004, McNabb has just 10 multiple-interception games in 76 regular-season starts.

While I'm on the subject of McNabb, I wanted to give him a thumbs up for his Christmas charity event on Saturday. Despite the snowstorm, McNabb bused more than a hundred homeless children to a local Wal-Mart and let them each select $150 to $200 worth of Christmas presents for their families. The children were then bused over to Chickie's and Pete's in  South Philly, where they wrapped their gifts and had a party.

Did You Notice?

* Vernon Davis caught a 19-yard pass from Alex Smith on the Niners' third offensive play of the game. The tight end would catch just 2 more passes (for 24 yards) the rest of the game.

* Cornerback Dimitri Patterson had a good game. Broke up a couple of passes, including a third-and-four throw to Jason Hill on the Niners' first possession that forced San Francisco to kick a field goal.

* The Eagles opened their second possession with a spread-option look, even though McNabb was at quarterback rather than Michael Vick. Lining up in the shotgun, McNabb handed the ball off to LeSean McCoy, but carried out an option fake to the left. McCoy gained five yards on the play.

* For just the second time this season, McNabb wasn't sacked. But the Niners did manage to get a lot of push up the middle, particularly early in the game, forcing McNabb out of the pocket.

* Sean McDermott sent Joselio Hanson on at least a half-dozen blitzes Sunday. The first one was on Quintin Mikell's first-quarter interception. The Niners picked it up and had a very favorable matchup, with defensive end Juqua Parker dropping off into coverage and trying – unsuccessfully – to cover Vernon Davis on a post route. But Mikell made a nice play, flying over from the right side of the field to pick off the pass.

* The nice blitz-pickup by LeSean McCoy on a play early in the second quarter.

* McNabb and his line continue to have problems with batted balls. The Niners tipped two Sunday.

* On Tracy White's interception just before the half, White and Trent Cole both faked `A' gap blitzes, then backed out into coverage. Smith was in the grasp of Juqua Parker and tried to dump the ball off to running back Frank Gore, but overthrew him and it went right to White.

* If Leonard Weaver hadn't been jawing with Ahmad Brooks at the end of the first half, McNabb would've been able to spike the ball with 10 seconds left, which would have allowed them to run one more play before having to settle for an Akers field goal.

* Samuel's poor tackle attempt on Josh Morgan on a third-down play early in the third quarter. If Samuel had executed the tackle, Morgan would've been short of the first down and Niners kicker Joe Nedney would've had a difficult 52-yard field goal attempt. Instead, Morgan broke free for a 22-yard gain and Nedney eventually booted a gimme 26-yarder. To his credit, Samuel prevented Morgan from picking up a first down on a third-and-7 play later in the drive with a big lick, though he lucked out a little on that one. He hit Morgan with a helmet-to-helmet shot without ever bothering to wrap him up. But the hit was hard enough to knock Morgan down.

Numbers Crunching

* Asante Samuel's eight interceptions are the most by a player in the Andy Reid era. He had been tied with Troy Vincent, who had 7 in 1999.

* The Eagles converted of three of five red-zone opportunities into touchdowns Sunday against a Niner defense that had been ranked third in the league in the red-zone. Eagles have converted eight of their last 12 red-zone trips into touchdowns. In their 10 wins, they are 19-for-33 in the red-zone. In their four losses: 4-for-13.

* DeSean Jackson's 19-yard TD catch from McNabb was his first red-zone reception of the season. Tight end Brent Celek has been the Eagles' top red-zone receiver, catching 10 passes, 6 for touchdowns. Jason Avant is second with 9 catches and 2 TDs. Nobody else has more than 4 catches in the red zone.

* The Eagles 94-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter was the longest of the season. It's the fourth straight game the Eagles have had at least one 80-plus-yard touchdown drive.

* The Eagles were 0-for-2 in goal-to-go situations, settling for David Akers field goals both times. They had converted 5 of 6 goal-to-gos in the previous 2 games. For the season, they are 16-for-26 in goal-to-go situations.

* The Eagles have allowed fewer than two sacks in a game just four times this season, including Sunday when the line pitched just its second shutout of the year. They gave up just one the week before in the win over the Giants and have allowed just five in the last four games.


To read our earlier report from Andy Reid's news conference, click here.