Baskett joins rookie elite

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Hank Baskett celebrates a touchdown catch in the Eagles 24-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Jason Getz)

CNJ staff

PHILADELPHIA — Not only did Clovis’ Hank Baskett turn in his best performance of the year in Philadelphia’s 24-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, he became the second rookie in NFL history to record two touchdown receptions of 85 yards or more in a season.

One play after Matt Schaub’s 9-yard TD to Alge Crumpler tied it at 17 for Atlanta, Feeley connected with Baskett on an 89-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead. Feeley hit a wide-open Baskett in stride and the rookie wideout streaked untouched down the right sideline.

It was the longest passing play in the NFL this season, according to the Philadelphia Eagles Web site.

Billy Howton of the Green Bay Packers in 1952 was the other rookie to catch two TD passes of 85 yards or more in a season.

The Eagles clinched the NFC East earlier Sunday when Detroit upset Dallas 39-31, prompting Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid to rest his starters.

Feeley threw for a career-best 321 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles (10-6) won their fifth straight game without Donovan McNabb. The Falcons (7-9) played almost the entire second half without Michael Vick, who sprained his right ankle on the first play of the third quarter.

The Eagles host the New York Giants on Saturday in a first-round playoff game.

“Tonight was just an opportunity,” Baskett said after catching seven passes for 177 yards. “We had to have all the young guys step up because once we found out Dallas lost and we had the NFC East, we did the right thing and took the starters out and let them rest up. We plan on making a long playoff run.”

Baskett’s best game before Sunday was against Dallas in October, when he caught three passes for 112 yards, including an 87-yarder that made ESPN’s Top 10 plays.

Playing in all 16 regular season games and starting in five, Baskett finished the season with 22 receptions for 464 yards (fifth most among rookies) and two touchdowns.

Baskett also set the Philadelphia record for most 80-plus yard touchdown receptions in a season.

Baskett’s 177 yards receiving Sunday was the sixth most in a game for the 2006 season, and third most in the NFC, behind the Carolina Panthers’ Steve Smith and the Green Bay Packers’ Donald Driver.