Despite the Eagles’ 28-23 upset win over the Carolina Panthers last Thursday night, NFL referee Pete Morelli earned the ire of Eagles fans for calling what many viewed as a sloppy and lopsided game. Morelli’s crew was tough on the Eagles, penalizing the team 10 times for 126 yards, including some questionable flags against cornerback Jalen Mills and running back LeGarrette Blount.
The Carolina Panthers were hit with just one penalty. For just 1 yard.
“It boils me,” Mills said of the officiating after the game. “You definitely get frustrated.”
One fan was so angry at Morelli’s checkered past in calling Eagles games that he started a Change.org petition aimed at banning Morelli from future Birds games. As of Wednesday evening, the petition was signed by over 70,000 supporters and had the public backing of at least one Eagle.
“I would definitely sign that petition if it came across my desk,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins told NBC Philadelphia’s John Clark at his Blitz, Bow Ties & Bourbon charity event at Union Trust on Monday night.
Jenkins also criticized the officiating after Thursday night’s game, telling reporters, “We felt like a lot of those were ticky-tack, or weren’t good calls.”
According to Eagles beat writer Zach Berman, the team has sent clips to the league office for clarification, a weekly procedure for all NFL teams. Neither the league nor the NFL Referees Association responded to a request for comment.
As NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro first pointed out, Morelli has called 40 penalties for 396 yards against the Eagles in the last four Birds games his crew has officiated. Against the Eagles’ four opponents, his crew has called just eight penalties for 74 yards.
“This is odd,” wrote Eagles beat writer Les Bowen, who noted he isn’t big on conspiracy theories but nevertheless felt “the lack of flags on an aggressive Carolina defense was pretty astonishing.”
A peek at Morelli’s game log reveals you have to look all the way back to 2012 to find a game in which Morelli’s crew didn’t call more penalties on the Eagles than on the opponent. In that Week 12 matchup against the Panthers, the Eagles were called for five penalties, and Carolina received six.
“Numbers this stark cannot be coincidence,” Timothy Kryst of North Wales wrote on the petition. “Morelli should be investigated by league for bias or collusion.”
It wasn’t just Eagles fans who signed the petition. Cliff Wilson, a Patriots fans from Lansdale, described why he felt it was important to ban Morelli from calling future Eagles games: “I’m a Pats fan but I know bad reffing when I see it.”
Longtime referee Ed Hochuli will officiate Monday night’s nationally televised game between the Eagles and Washington, and Morelli’s crew has the week off. In its last four Eagles games, Hochuli’s crew has called 26 penalties against the Birds for 200 yards, vs. 42 penalties against their opponents for 287 yards.