EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The halftime score was every bit as bad as Giants 24, Eagles 3 would suggest. The game of the year seemed to be over before it started. And while speechifying can be overrated in sports, more about story line than about reality, someone felt the need to get up and say something.

It was Asante Samuel, playing in his first game in a month after suffering a sprained knee.

"Everybody, come show your heart," is what he remembers saying. "Let your heart show this second half. When you come out of here, everybody play with your heart. I don't want anybody coming out of here unless they left it all on the line."

Why make a speech? Why him?

"We were getting our ass kicked - what do you mean?" Samuel said. "We were losing, 24-3. It wasn't going right. Everybody was on vacation. Somebody had to do something to get everybody fired up. So that's what happened."

The rest is history - so long and tortured that it should have been written by Tolstoy. The final score - Eagles 38, Giants 31, ending on a 65-yard DeSean Jackson punt return at the gun - will be discussed for as long as people discuss these things. Samuel spoke for everyone when he said, "Anything is possible with that guy - one of the most amazing athletes I've ever seen, with the speed, the agility, he's an incredible athlete. Anything is possible with that kid . . . He's a big-play guy."

As for Samuel, no one was 100 percent sure he was playing until the inactive list was announced yesterday morning. The injury, and the pain, have lingered and prevented him from moving as he is accustomed, especially laterally.

"It was like a game-time decision but everything was all right," he said. "A lot of medicine."

Now, this. Never perceived as a vocal leader, Samuel got up and said something at one of the team's darkest moments - and was able to laugh about it in the retelling. Now, he is talking about building upon the miracle.

"We see," he said. "This let us see - opened up our eyes and the sky's the limit. With the athletes we have and the coaches and everything, it's incredible."