Friday, October 13, 2017

The 5-1 Eagles stake their claim to be among NFL's best

Usually, it is the loser's lament.

The refs cost us the game.

Not last night.

Against all odds - including Pete Morelli's officiating crew - the Eagles went into Carolina last night and beat Cam Newton and the Panthers, 28-23.

The Eagles are 5-1, sitting atop the NFC East and rightfully staking a claim to being one of the best teams in the NFL.

They played without their crucial cog, right guard Lane Johnson. And it showed early as backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled early, giving up a key sack to Julius Peppers that led to a Carson Wentz fumble. But Vaitai settled down and played well in the second half.

It is this mantra of "next man up" that has become the calling card of this team. And it just happens to be the trait of good teams. And make no mistake, Doug Pederson's club is a very good team.

Starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks went down with a turned ankle in the first half. No problem. Joe Woods stepped up and filled the bill.

Carson Wentz was money again, throwing three more TD passes and showing he is quickly becoming one of the elite signal callers in the NFL, far beyond what is usually expected of second-year players. Wentz's ability to come to the line of scrimmage and quickly dissect a defense - including switching out of a play when he sees something he can exploit - is the mark of a savvy veteran like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

The Eagles faced the uphill challenge of a short week and traveling to Carolina.

But it wasn't just the Panthers that seemed to be providing the opposition.

They had to deal with Pete Morelli's officiating crew.

The trend showed up early, a bunch of ticky-tack calls, in particular on the Eagles defense. There was an unnecessary roughness call on running back LeGarrette Blount for what appeared to be routine blocking. That was followed a few minutes later by no call when Blount was thrown to the ground by a Panther clearly after the whistle.

The Eagles were called for 10 penalties for 126 yards; the Panthers just one infraction for 1 yard.

Sound lopsided? Actually, it continued a trend.

In the last four Eagles games done by Morelli's crew - all on the road - the Birds have been flagged 40 times for 396 yards, while the home team has been hit just eight times for 74 yards.

And none of it matters at this point.

What matters is this: The Eagles are 5-1, staking a claim to be among the NFL's elite.

The only downside: We now have to wait more than a week for the Birds to get back on the field, a Monday night matchup vs. the Redskins.

Can't wait.

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