It should have been remembered as one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, as both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs came out hot and scored touchdowns on their first drives. Then Philadelphia dominated for a stretch, only to be confronted by a furious second-half comeback by KC and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
It was going down to the wire, tied at 35, destined to be a classic, one of the top Super Bowls of all time…until an overzealous official called a late 4th-quarter ticky-tack holding foul on Eagles defensive back James Bradberry on third and eight, which gave the Chiefs an automatic first down.
This allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock, kick a field goal, and leave the Eagles only eight seconds to score a touchdown—obviously an impossible task.
The Chiefs ended up winning 38-35.
Tell me that this is holding and that it’s egregious enough to decide the biggest sporting event of the year:
This is the “holding” call that is going to end up deciding the super bowl, what a fucking joke. You play all year to lose on a terrible call. pic.twitter.com/Vgm7pSCasu
— Mismatch Philadelphia (@MismatchPhilly) February 13, 2023
Did Bradberry very slightly impede KC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s progress? Possibly—but was it within five yards of the line of scrimmage, where that’s allowable? Looks pretty close to me.
But even if he did—this is the Super Bowl, the NFL title game, not the knitting championships. Let them play.
The refs when the Eagles were about to get the ball back pic.twitter.com/kHo6pV6372
— Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz (@LeBatardShow) February 13, 2023
When I stated my intention to write this story, several of my colleagues pointed out that Bradberry himself admitted to holding, which is true. He said he “pulled on his jersey”:
"I pulled on his jersey. They called it. I was hoping they would let it ride."
James Bradberry on the pivotal holding call pic.twitter.com/5P8zvFqswd
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 13, 2023
Let’s be real: this happens on almost every NFL play in every game from the preseason to the Big Game. He did not appear to slow down Schuster in the slightest, and his hand placement seemed inadvertent. In short, his admission does not change my view that this should not have determined the outcome of the game.
I’m far from alone in my criticism. Said former NFL punter and podcast host Pat McAfee:
“That ref making that holding call at that time at that stage at that game? Super Bowl? Huh? Huh?!…” he said. “Hey refs – can’t f—ing call that there. Okay? It’s not about you. Now was there a hold? I guess. If you stop and go frame by frame, he had his hands on him, but nonetheless, at that stage? Come on! we were robbed of a potential overtime game in the Super Bowl!”
Here’s ESPN football commentator Kirk Herbstreit:
Usually don’t get involved in ripping referees but HATE that defensive holding call on Bradberry. 35-35 late on a 3rd down incompletion on what was a marginal foul???
Let em play man!!
Bad call-hate that is what many will take away from this game.
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) February 13, 2023
I know that many will say you have to call everything, regardless of the time and situation, but that’s not how it works, folks. You might call a slight touch a foul during the NBA regular season—but there’s no way you’re calling it in game 7 of the Finals with 10 seconds left.
All I know is that at my Super Bowl party—where no one was rooting for the Eagles—every single person felt that the call marred what was otherwise an incredible game.Congratulations to Kansas City—their second-half comeback was amazing, and their defensive adjustments were impressive. And yes, Patrick Mahomes is a generational talent who I love to watch.
But I would still have rather seen the two teams battle it out, instead of the outcome being decided by a referee who felt now was the moment to become Hogwarts professor Dolores Umbridge.
Story cited here.
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