First-timers headline Eagles named to Pro Bowl

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First-timers headline Eagles named to Pro Bowl

In the middle of the NovaCare Complex, there's a hallway the Eagles walk through every day to get from the team auditorium to the locker room. 

On one side of the long hallway are photos of every Eagle to ever make a Pro Bowl, with the years listed next to them. 

There are going to be some new faces in that hallway pretty soon. 

Because of the six Eagles to be named to Pro Bowl rosters this season, four are first-timers. It should come as no surprise the Eagles, sitting at 12-2, will be pretty well-represented in the annual all-star game. Only the Steelers (eight) have more Pro Bowlers. 

Carson Wentz (more on him here), Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks are first-year Pro Bowlers, while Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins are veterans, heading back to the game. 

This is the first time since 2004 — Ike Reese, Brian Westbrook, Michael Lewis and Lito Sheppard — the Eagles have four first-time Pro Bowlers. 

• Can we finally call this a breakout season from Ertz? The 27-year-old has 63 catches for 719 yards and a career-high eight touchdown catches in just 12 games this season. Even after missing two games with injury, Ertz has doubled his previous career high in touchdowns and was clearly one of Wentz's favorite targets. While fan voting is just 1/3 of the entire procedure, Ertz finished with 486,011 fan votes, more than any other NFC tight end. 

“It's rewarding," Ertz said in a statement released by the team. "I think any person wants to see the 'hard work' pay off, but at the end of the day I've had catches and yards and touchdowns before but I've never had a team like this. The ultimate goal is to win football games in this league. If you don't win, nothing really matters. That's what's been so rewarding this year. I've been a really big contributor on a really good football team. I think that whole process has been really fulfilling.”

• This season, Johnson has been on a mission to prove himself after serving a 10-game suspension for a second PED violation last year. What he's proven is he's one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL. It's a little rare for right tackles to get this type of recognition, but Johnson, 27, certainly deserves it. Playing on the right side has made him go against some of the top pass-rushers in the NFL, like Von Miller, Ryan Kerrigan and Demarcus Lawrence. Johnson hasn't been shy about his ambition to be named to the Pro Bowl this season. With his selection, Johnson hit a $250,000 escalator in his contract. 

“It’s been one of my goals to be called one of the best in the world at what you do, so it’s pretty special,” Johnson said. 

• Brooks, 28, came to the Eagles as a free agent last season and has really proven his worth in 2017. He's been an absolute rock for the Eagles at right guard. After missing two games in 2016 with what ended up being anxiety issues, Brooks has very publicly talked about his problem in an attempt to de-stigmatize them. On the field, he's been tremendous. The most impressive thing about him might be his athleticism as the biggest player on the roster. With his selection, Brooks hit a $250,000 escalator in his contract. 

“I was excited but I come from a unit where we all are straight brothers," Brooks said. "So it’s not like an individual accolade. It’s (offensive line coach Jeff) Stoutland coaching me up, getting me right, refining my technique and things like that. Playing alongside Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce helps tremendously and Carson playing well and making plays. So although it’s kind of an individual honor, I wouldn’t be able to do it without playing in between these two guys and guys making plays in the backfield, too.”

• While he doesn't pile up a ton of stats at his defensive tackle position, go ask a bunch of offensive guards about Cox. They'll all say the same thing. He's still an absolute beast. Now, is he worth $100 million? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, Cox is a huge part of the Eagles' defense and an absolute game-wrecker inside. The 27-year-old has 5½ sacks and is heading back to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. 

• It's hard to quantify just how important Jenkins is to the Eagles' defense. He barely ever leaves the field on defense and even contributes on special teams. He plays safety, nickel corner and even plays linebacker at times. He's one of the most respected veterans on the team. This is his second Pro Bowl after making it through after being an alternate in 2015. This year, Jenkins has two interceptions and eight passes defensed. With his selection, Jenkins hit a $100,000 escalator in his contract. 

While six Eagles made the Pro Bowl, there were a couple pretty obvious snubs. Defensive end Brandon Graham and center Jason Kelce were certainly deserving. Special teamer Kamu Grugier-Hill also had a pretty strong case. 

Graham, who leads the team with 9½ sacks, deserved to make his first Pro Bowl roster. Aside from those 9½ sacks, he's been the Eagles' most disruptive defensive lineman and has been a force every week. 

Kelce has been playing at a higher level than he did in 2016, when he went to his second career Pro Bowl. He was one of the players offensive coordinator Frank Reich praised when asked about Pro Bowl-worthy players. 

And Grugier-Hill seemed to have a real shot at making the Pro Bowl as a special teams ace. He leads the Eagles in special teams snaps and has made some really big plays this season. 

This year's Pro Bowl will take place on Jan. 28 in Orlando, Florida. The Eagles hope none of their Pro Bowlers will be available for the game. They hope to be preparing for the Super Bowl that weekend. 

Meet the 99-year-old Eagles fan with a remarkable story

Josh Potter

Meet the 99-year-old Eagles fan with a remarkable story

In Philadelphia, rabidly following the Eagles is a right of passage. Watch one game and you’re hooked. Like many lifelong fans, that’s what happened with Phil Basser.

In 1933. 

So to lump Basser in with the rest of the lifelong fans wouldn’t be right; he was actually born 15 years before the Eagles first took the field for their inaugural season in 1933. 

By now you’ve probably heard of Basser. How could you not have? He’s appeared in Sports Illustrated, made appearances on the local news and has become a Twitter sensation — all in the last week. He’s had a busier week than the team he roots for.

That busy week will culminate with suite tickets provided by the Eagles for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. Eighty-two years after Basser attended his first game in 1936, he’ll attend his first playoff game and his first game in “many years.”

If you caught last Sunday’s Vikings-Saints game, you surely caught Millie Wall’s story; a 99-year-old fan attending her first playoff game. A constant camera fixture — she even got to meet Commissioner Roger Goodell — she became a social media star within minutes.

A tweet by SNF on NBC of Wall was quickly passed around Twitter, where Josh Potter, the grandson of Basser, first saw it. Potter replied to the tweet, making his grandpa an instant internet sensation. See, social media isn’t all terrible.

This week, Wall's Vikings and Basser's Eagles will battle for a trip to the Super Bowl. But don't expect Basser to talk any trash.

"To Millie, I would say, 'I will be sure to toast to your 100th on July 4th,'” Basser said in an email correspondence with NBC Sports Philadelphia.

For “a simple guy who likes to live under the radar” like Basser, his meteoric rise to fame “is all a bit overwhelming.”

“The upside is getting calls and emails from the children of my old friends who have long since passed,” Basser said. “When you get to be 99, you don’t have a lot of childhood friends around. It’s been nice to reminisce about my youth.”

Basser — born March 6, 1918, in Philadelphia — has overcome a lot in his 99 years. His mother passed away when he was just four years old. His father, unable to provide for him and his sister, was forced to place his children in a Germantown foster home. Still, his father would come and visit on weekends. Years later, his sister Rose passed away at just 8 years old. 

So Philadelphia, the city and the Eagles — Basser estimates he’s attended “about 25 games” in his lifetime, many of them in those early days in the 1930s — have a deeper meaning than most to Basser.

Then World War ll broke out. Basser originally trained to be a pilot but was rerouted to ground warfare after the Allied invasion at Normandy, where he eventually served as a second lieutenant in the Philippines. 

“After World War II, I never thought there would be another war,” Basser said. “I thought, ‘Hey, I could use the extra income,’ so I enrolled in the army reserves. I was shocked when the Korean War broke out.”

“I was all set to get shipped to Korea and was actually being examined in the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia when my lifelong best friend, Louis Wexler, ran in and said he had bad news. I was pulled out of line and he told that my dad had had a sudden heart attack and passed away. I was given a 90-day compassionate leave. After the 90 days passed, my orders were changed to ship off to Germany because of heightened tensions with the Soviets.”

Much like the 2017 Eagles, Basser has overcome a great deal in his lifetime. And still, he remains positive. The Eagles’ and Basser’s stories of perseverance collided on Dec. 10 when Basser experienced his worst moment as an Eagles fan, “watching my hero Carson Wentz get carried off the field” with a torn ACL.

But it hasn't been all bad. Unlike younger Eagles fans, Basser has seen the team reach the pinnacle of the sport.  

“Seeing them slog in the snow and blustery wind during the 1960 championship game at Franklin Field,” replied when asked about his favorite Eagles’ memory. “They had to be true soldiers to do that and I was so impressed and inspired by them, and best of all, they won!”

He saw their last championship, and this year, Basser is confident he'll see another.

“There is an old saying, ‘Always a bridesmaid but never a bride,’” Basser said. “Well this year, I can’t wait to walk you down that 100-yard aisle to Super Bowl victory!”

So you like the Eagles to beat the Vikings this weekend?

“A hard fought battle but the Eagles will soar to VICTORY!”

The positive man that he is, Basser offered some condolences for the Vikings. 

“To the Vikings, I would say, ‘Keep plugging. You’ll get to the big time one year. Just not this year!’”

10 Eagles stats your probably didn't know

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10 Eagles stats your probably didn't know

Catches by a running back, a run from scrimmage by a wide receiver, run defense and long field goals highlight this week's edition of 10 Random Eagles Stats You Probably Didn't Know (that I didn't know either)! 

• Devonta Freeman averaged 4.4 yards per carry during the regular season, but against the Eagles he ran 10 times for just seven yards. His 0.7 yards-per-carry is the lowest ever against the Eagles in a playoff game by a running back with 10 or more carries. The previous low was Mike Alstott’s 1.47 for the Buccaneers in 2002 (17-for-25). It’s seventh-lowest in NFL playoff history and worst by a running back since Tyrone Wheatley of the Raiders averaged 0.6 yards per carry (12-for-7) in a loss to the Ravens in 2000.

• The Eagles threw the football to their backs less this year than any season since 1956 and less than any team in the NFL during the regular season. Yet Saturday’s game was their first ever in postseason history in which they had two backs with at least three catches — Corey Clement with five and Jay Ajayi with three. 

• The Eagles rushed for 96 yards Saturday, their seventh consecutive postseason game under 100 yards. That’s the longest postseason streak in NFL history without 100 rushing yards. The Eagles haven’t had 100 rushing yards in a playoff game since the 2006 conference semifinal loss to the Saints, when they had 123.

• Jake Elliott’s 53-yard field goal was the longest in NFL history by a rookie, breaking the record of 50 yards set by Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots against the Chargers in 2006. It also broke the Eagles record of 51 yards set in the 2008 wild-card game against the Vikings by David Akers. It’s tied for 13th-longest field goal in NFL postseason history. 

• The Eagles held the Falcons to 86 rushing yards Saturday, ending a streak of nine straight playoff games in which they had allowed at least 100 rushing yards. That was the second-longest streak in NFL history. The 86 rushing yards are the fewest the Eagles have allowed in their last 14 playoff games. They held Tampa to 49 in 2002.

• Nelson Agholor’s 21-yard run was the longest in Eagles postseason history by a wide receiver. The previous long was a 13-yarder by Reggie Brown against the Giants in 2006. It was also the Eagles’ longest run from scrimmage in their last six games, since a 27-yarder by Correll Buckhalter against the Vikings in 2008.

• Saturday’s game was the ninth in Eagles postseason history in which they held a team to fewer than 200 passing yards and fewer than 100 rushing yards. They’re 9-0 in those games, allowing 8.0 points per game.

• The only team to score more than 10 points against the Eagles at the Linc in their last six home games is the Broncos, and they didn’t surpass 10 until they trailed 44-9. The Eagles’ defense has allowed 55 points in its last six home games, or 9.2 per game. 

• The Atlanta game was the first in Eagles postseason history in which they won despite no takeaways. They were 0-4 in franchise history in the playoffs when failing to force a turnover — the 1980 Super Bowl vs. the Raiders, the 1996 wild-card game in San Francisco, the 2001 NFC Championship Game in St. Louis and the 2003 NFC Championship Game against the Panthers at the Linc.  

• Matt Ryan’s 86.8 passer rating Saturday is the highest ever against the Eagles by a starting quarterback in a postseason loss. The Eagles had been 0-12 in franchise history in postseason games when the opposing starting QB had a passer rating higher than 84.5.