CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Eagles were able to joke about it. They were able to laugh off the laughable disparity in penalty flags on Thursday night.
Because they won.
Despite the historic lopsided margin in penalty yards on Thursday Night Football, the Eagles were able to leave Bank of America Stadium with a 28-23 win over the Panthers.
But after the game, as the Eagles sat in the visitor's locker room, they didn't feel like they just beat the Panthers. They felt like they beat the refs too.
"That was crazy, man," defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "I don't know. The only thing we can do is be resilient, man, keep fighting. And just try to keep fighting through. You don't know what you're going to get thrown at you in this game."
The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards on Thursday night. The Panthers were penalized one time for one yard. The Panthers were flagged a couple more times but both penalties were declined by the Eagles.
Still, the disparity was historic.
It was the first time in NFL history one team had over 120 penalty yards while the other had less than 10.
"Ten to one," head coach Doug Pederson said with a smirk after the game. "Hey, it’s part of the game. We’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to clean it up. Can’t have 10 penalties."
On Friday morning, Pederson said they will send clips to the league to seek clarification, a process they go through every week.
Thursday was the first time since 2007 the Eagles had been penalized for that many yards in a game and their 126 penalty yards were 12th most in franchise history. It was the first time since 2015 one of their opponents had just one penalty.
"We felt like a lot of those were ticky-tack, or weren’t good calls," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "For us, adversity is nothing new for us. We just kind of strap up and keep playing, and hunker down. We continue to play aggressively, that is the biggest thing. We don’t want that to take away our aggression, or our ability to make plays. So we just go to the next play."
Coming into Thursday, the Eagles were well aware of which officiating crew would be throwing flags in Charlotte, Jenkins said. They likely knew them as the same crew that hit them for 14 penalties and 111 yards in Detroit last season, while flagging the Lions just twice for 18 yards.
In fact, the last four times Pete Morelli's crew has officiated an Eagles game it's been away from Lincoln Financial Field. The disparity in penalties is shocking. In those last four games, dating back to 2013, Morelli's crew has hit the Eagles with 40 penalties for 396 yards. Eagles opponents have been penalized eight times for 74 yards. Pederson said he does think the league is aware of the disparity.
For fairness' sake, the last Eagles home game Morelli officiated came in 2012, coincidentally against the Panthers. The Eagles were flagged five times for 30 yards in that one, while the Panthers were hit with six for 101. But two wrongs don't make a right. Especially not on Thursday night when the Eagles seemed to be on the wrong end of many calls.
"Coach hinted that they called a lot of OPI but they actually called a lot of DPI tonight," safety Rodney McLeod said. "It was tough. Maybe Carolina had a little bit of help tonight, them being at home. But we were able to overcome it; that was the most important part."
Amazingly, the Eagles were able to overcome it on Thursday night and they have actually won two of those last four Morelli-officiated games.
Four of the Eagles' 10 penalties came on defense and gave the Panthers a new set of downs. It can be tough for a defense to regroup after those types of penalties, especially when they're questionable, but the Eagles were able to do that on Thursday night.
"It is hard. Penalties always extend drives," McLeod said. "That's what we always talk about. The cornerbacks got some tough calls tonight but they stayed at it. They didn't flinch, not one bit. They stayed aggressive and were able to make some big plays down the stretch for us."
One of the questionable calls on Thursday came in the first quarter when running back LeGarrette Blount was hit with an unnecessary roughness after it looked like he finished his block to the whistle. At least that's what the Eagles argued. Blount said he wasn't given an explanation as to why he was flagged and didn't think he did anything to deserve it.
In the fourth quarter, rookie Derek Barnett was hit with an unnecessary roughness when he took down Cam Newton on third down. Actually, it was a dead ball foul because the Panthers didn't get the snap off. Barnett said he kept going because he never heard a whistle. It didn't matter; the flag came out anyway. He was offered no explanation of why.
"We didn't hear no whistle," Barnett said. "We would have stopped if we heard the whistle."
Three plays after the Barnett penalty, Cam Newton hit Christian McCaffrey for a 1-yard touchdown to cut into the Eagles lead, 28-23.
It could have been a killer penalty, and it might have seemed like it at the time, but the Eagles rebounded. They won the game despite the penalty flags. They're 5-1 and have the best record in the conference.
That's why they were able to joke about it after the game.
"I didn't agree with those calls but at the same time, we're 5-1," Jalen Mills said, "so I don't really have nothing negative to say."