Over 23,000 sign online petition to ban Pete Morelli from reffing Eagles games

Over 23,000 sign online petition to ban Pete Morelli from reffing Eagles games

Should veteran NFL referee Pete Morelli be banned from officiating Eagles games? More than 23,000 people say yes.

After watching Morelli and his crew penalize the Eagles dramatically more than their opponent for a fourth straight Eagles game the crew has officiated, Will Philbrick of Little Rock, Arkansas, went to change.org and created a petition to present to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell complaining about Morelli’s track record working Eagles games.

As of Sunday morning, the petition had 23,074 signatures.

The Eagles beat the Panthers and Morelli Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards, and the Panthers just once for one yard. It was the first time in NFL history one team was assessed 120 or more penalty yards and its opponent was assessed fewer than 10 penalty yards.

This is nothing new.

Morelli also worked the Eagles-Lions game in Detroit last year, when the Eagles were penalized 14 times for 111 yards and the Lions twice for 18 yards.

In fact, in the last four Eagles games that Morelli has worked, the Eagles have been flagged 40 times for 396 yards and their opponents just eight times for 74 yards.

"NFL Referee Pete Morelli has a clear and statistically obvious bias against the Philadelphia Eagles," the petition reads. "Over the last four games that he has officiated that the Eagles were playing in, the Eagles were flagged a total of 40 times for 396 yards, while the Eagles opponent in those games were flagged a mere 8 times for 74 yards. This is unacceptable and puts the Philadelphia Eagles at a disadvantage. Preventing Morelli from refereeing Eagles games will result in a more trustworthy and honest NFL. This will benefit the entire league and keep all claims of conspiracy to a normal level."

Morelli, 65, is in his 21st season with the NFL and his 15th as a referee.

10 most surprising Eagles from NFC East-leading 5-1 start

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10 most surprising Eagles from NFC East-leading 5-1 start

We all pretty much knew Malcolm Jenkins would have another big year. We all pretty much knew Carson Wentz would improve dramatically, Zach Ertz would have a career season and Brandon Graham would have success getting after the quarterback.
Then there are the surprises. On this team, there've been a ton of them.
The Eagles, at 5-1, are already just two wins short of last year's total and have more wins than the rest of the NFC East combined.
Let's take a look at the 10 biggest surprises so far this year on this first-place Eagles team. (And don't look for Nelson Agholor on this list. His performance may be surprising to some people but not to me!)
1. Patrick Robinson
Honestly, Robinson's career looked like it was over this summer. He was with his fourth team in four years, and he was so bad early in training camp and the Eagles had so many promising young corners you had to wonder if there was even a roster spot for Robinson. But not only did he make the team and earn a starting spot when Ronald Darby got hurt, he's played at such a consistently high level you can make a case he's been the Eagles' Defensive MVP so far. He's got a team-high nine knockdowns, two interceptions and he's just been consistently solid in coverage.
2. LeGarrette Blount
Maybe it's not a huge surprise Blount has been so productive because he did score 18 touchdowns for the Patriots last year. But the surprise is his 5.6 yards-per-carry average — second-best in the league and tops in the NFC among regular backs (at least eight carries per game). Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year and hasn't been over 4.5 since 2013. And he's 30 now. That 5.6 figure is fourth-highest in NFL history by a running back in his 30s after six games. With Darren Sproles out, Donnel Pumphrey struggling throughout camp and now on the shelf and Wendell Smallwood out the last couple games as well, the Eagles have really needed Blount, and he's responded in a huge way. He's giving the Eagles way more than anybody expected.
3. Rasul Douglas
Injuries forced the Eagles to use Douglas in Week 2 after he was inactive on opening day, and he's been starting ever since. Douglas has given up some plays — what rookie cornerback hasn't? — but despite less than world-class speed he's shown an ability to cover, tackle and support the run. Douglas needs to be more consistent, but he's got two interceptions in five games — the first Eagles corner with two INTs in his first five career games since Eric Allen — and he's only going to get better.
4. Jake Elliott
What a story. The Bengals draft Elliott in the fifth round, risk losing him by placing him on the practice squad, then Caleb Sturgis gets hurt, the Eagles sign Elliott, and he proceeds to make three kicks of 50 yards or more in his first five games — including a game-winning 61-yarder, the third-longest walk-off field goal in NFL history. Despite not playing on opening day, Elliott is fourth in the NFL in scoring, with 49 points. He's 12 for 14 overall, including 10 straight makes. He's already one of the most accomplished long-range kickers in Eagles history. And he's played five games. 
5. Mychal Kendricks
Kendricks' once-promising career seemed to fizzle out the last couple years. Check out his playing time his first five NFL seasons: 88.5 percent in 2012 (under Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles), then 82.6 percent, 65.5 percent and 51.6 percent in 2013 through 2015 (under Bill Davis) and down to 26.7 percent last year under Jim Schwartz. A downward spiral. But Kendricks forced the Eagles to play him with a fantastic preseason, and he's backed that up with some really solid play so far this year. Kendricks had his best game in years Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, with 15 total tackles, a tackle for loss and two special teams tackles. He played 55 snaps — his most in two years — and is now at 52 percent for the season. It's been a long time since we've seen Kendricks play at this level, and it's safe to say few people saw it coming.
6. Tim Jernigan
Hard to believe after watching these first six games that the Ravens didn't want Jernigan back. From what he's shown so far, he's a big-time player. Why would the Ravens give up on a 24-year-old defensive lineman with this much potential? Apparently, they felt he wasn't consistent enough. But if he's able to continue delivering the type of play that he has so far, it was a steal for the Eagles. Jernigan already has six tackles for loss, 1½ sacks and four hurries, not to mention stout play against the run all year. He's been way better than advertised.
7. Chris Long
Any notion the Eagles just brought Long in for leadership and emergency depth was quickly dispelled when we started to see him play. Long has a lot left. He's averaging 28 snaps, is tied for second on the team with 2.0 sacks and played a season-high 41 snaps in a big way Thursday night down in Charlotte. Long, now 32 years old, can still play.
8. Mack Hollins
When training camp began, Hollis was probably behind Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner, Shelton Gibson and maybe even Bryce Treggs. So he was eighth-team. Now the rookie fifth-round pick is working his way up the Eagles' wide receiving hierarchy. He hasn't played a lot — about 10 snaps per game — but he's got five catches on five targets for five first downs, including a big 20-yarder Thursday night against the Panthers. Keep an eye on Hollins. He's going to be a good one.
9. Jason Kelce
Kelce's performance hasn't been a surprise to everybody, but there was certainly a large contingent of people who felt the veteran center should be released this offseason or preseason after his level of play dropped last year. But Kelce has been terrific in the middle of the NFL's No. 4-ranked offense and No. 5-ranked running game. So far a resurgent year for the two-time Pro Bowler.
10. Corey Clement
Down three running backs — Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood — the Eagles have asked a lot of Clement, and the undrafted rookie has made some nice contributions, including a 15-yard touchdown run against the Giants, a 22-yard catch and run against the Cards and a 35-yard kickoff return against the Giants. It's rare to get much of anything from rookie tailbacks, but Clement has done a nice job taking advantage of his opportunities.

With top record and time off, Eagles' next focus is to not feel themselves

With top record and time off, Eagles' next focus is to not feel themselves

The whole country saw Thursday night what we've all suspected here in Philly the last few weeks.

The Eagles are for real.

About 15 million people nationwide watched the Eagles topple the Panthers 28-23 Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium in a battle of 4-1 teams.

National TV games have a way of altering the conversation about a player or a team, and the Eagles know that with a four-game winning streak, a 5-1 record and a signature prime-time win on the road over a playoff-caliber team, the perception of the Eagles is changing.

“Now you’re going to have bandwagon people who are going to jump on and say, ‘Yeah, you’re for real," safety Corey Graham said. "But it doesn’t really matter to us.

"As long as the guys in this room continue to fight and continue to do what we need to do, we’re all right with that. We’re going to get more respect, but that comes with more responsibility. We’ve got to go out there and make sure we’re ready to play every week."

The mood in the Eagles' locker room as they embarked on their mini-bye — four days off and 10 days without a game — was confidence and swagger but also a great deal of perspective and caution.

They know they're good. But they also know there's a long way to go, and a 5-1 record in mid-October won't mean anything if they don't keep winning.

You never really know, but this sure doesn't seem like a team that's going to let a little success get to its head.

“Coach (Doug) Pederson always tells us, block out distractions," safety Rodney McLeod said. "Can’t listen to what’s going outside in the world, just be focused on next game and what we have in this locker room and being committed to one another, and I think that’s what we’re going to do."

That said, it doesn't mean they're not going to enjoy the show they put on Thursday night for a national TV audience.

"Oh yeah," McLeod said. "Every primetime game, you want to go out there and represent not only yourself but your team. We’re here to put the league on notice, man, and I think this was a good game to do that. 

"It was versus a good team, on the road, short week, and we stepped up to the plate."

This is the 10th time in franchise history the Eagles have been 5-1 or better after six games. They were 6-0 in 1981 and 2004, and they've also been 5-1 in 1949, 1950, 1960, 1961, 1979, 1980 and 2014.

And all that is with four games on the road — the Eagles are already 3-1 away from the Linc after winning just one road game last year. The Eagles' next three games — against the Redskins, 49ers and Broncos — are all at home.

Only three of their 10 remaining opponents currently have a winning record: the 3-1 Broncos, 3-2 Seahawks and 3-2 Rams.

Doug Pederson, now 12-10 as an NFL head coach, said it's not easy to keep his team grounded and focused coming off such an emotional win and with four consecutive wins.

"It's tough," he said. "It's a fine line because the players are going to read and they're going to listen to all the media outlets on TV and stuff and just hear how people are talking about them and saying how good and how great they are. 

"But (we have) to keep it real, too. That comes from me. Yeah, we're winning these games, but there is a lot to fix, a lot to correct, as well. It's never perfect."

Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins, two veterans with Super Bowl rings, both cautioned their teammates against buying into the hype.

They've both been to the top, but they also know how tenuous that grip on the upper echelon of the NFL is.

"I think a lot of us have anticipated us having success," Jenkins said. "The biggest thing is handling that success and being able to stay goal-oriented and being able to stay focused on the day and the task at hand and one week at a time and not listen to all the things people are projecting onto us.

"And the only way to get through that adversity is to be present in the moment. … That’s up to the leaders on the team to combat all of the praise and hoopla that will come with it. I’ve been on teams that have handled success well and teams that have handled success poorly, and I don’t intend to let that slip."

Long, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots last year, also preached caution.

“We’ll see if we’re special," he said. "I don’t want to say we’re special yet. We’re six games in, we’ve got a long way to go. Special teams sustain this kind of performance as the weather gets colder and real football starts in November and December. We’ve got to set ourselves up for that."

This is a team that hasn't been in the playoffs since 2013, hasn't won a playoff game since 2008 and hasn't even had a winning season since 2014.

So 5-1 is heady stuff. 

"We don’t listen to the noise," Alshon Jeffery said. "We believe in each other. We’re the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a new year. We’re just getting started."