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McMullen | Does NFL have a Pete Morelli problem?

NFL referee Pete Morelli (135) takes the field prior to an NFL football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Adrian Kraus/AP photo

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles overcame a number of the typical hurdles any team in the NFL must overcome if it plans on winning on the road during a 28-23 win over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.

Injuries, Cam Newton and the Panthers’ tough front seven were expected, however. What wasn’t was the glaring disparity in penalties, one which saw Philadelphia flagged 10 times for 126 yards against Carolina’s one miscue, which cost them a yard and perhaps, more importantly, two points.

Afterward, a number of Eagles coaches and officials took notice of the chasm in between the two numbers and weren’t happy — but it’s not a good idea to publicly criticize officials in this league because the only thing it’s going to accomplish is a fine.

“Ten to one,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said in an almost unbelieving fashion after the game. “Hey, it’s part of the game. We’ve got to do a better job.”

Perhaps the sting of a loss would have changed things, but Pederson took the high road at his Monday news conference while addressing the discrepancy further, simply stating that all teams send questionable calls to the league office for clarification.

He was also sure to say that many of the calls that went against the Eagles were legitimate ones.

From the league’s perspective, however, it might want to take a look at what is going one with veteran referee Pete Morelli and his crew.

Thursday was the first time in NFL history that one team was penalized for 120 yards or more while the other had fewer than 10 yards.

“We felt like a lot of those were ticky-tack, or weren’t good calls,” Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “Adversity is nothing new for us. We just kind of strap up and keep playing, and hunker down.”

ProFootballTalk.com got a league source to talk about the disparity, however.

“There are penalties on nearly every play, and it’s just whether they are called or not,” the source was quoted as saying. “It’s can’t be this much out of balance — it’s impossible.”

It is impossible but not that big of a deal if it’s just an anomaly. It’s not, however. The last four times Pete Morelli’s crew has been assigned an Eagles game, they’ve all been on the road, and Philadelphia has accumulated 40 flags for 396 yards over that span. The opponents have been whistled eight times for 74 yards.

Last year in Detroit, the numbers were 14 penalties and 111 yards for Philadelphia while the Lions were caught just twice for 18 yards.

This is not just about the Eagles, however.

An NFL source in Minnesota told FanRag Sports that the Vikings were incensed at how Morelli and his crew officiated the Vikings’ Week 2 game in Pittsburgh, in which significant penalties extended Steelers’ offensive drives in an almost consistent fashion.

Meanwhile, the last time Morelli had a game in Philadelphia, ironically when the Eagles hosted the Panthers in 2012, it was Carolina that was flagged for 101 yards.

The commonality here is obviously home versus road, and for whatever reason, the NFL has assembled a crew that is too often letting the environment affect the way it calls a game.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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