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For the first 58 minutes and five seconds of Super Bowl 57, Carl Cheffers’ referee crew swallowed their whistles and let the boys play. Before the game-clinching defensive holding call on cornerback James Bradberry late in the fourth quarter, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs were flagged for just eight combined penalties. Only two of them were after the snap. None of them were holding calls.

Should the flag have been thrown? Probably not, especially considering how the crew officiated the game up to that point. But was it a foul? Yes, and Bradberry even admitted to that fact after the game.

Philadelphia fans are right to be upset about the controversial call that marred what could’ve been an all-time Super Bowl finish, but it’s not the reason the Eagles lost the game.

James Bradberry’s holding call was ticky-tacky, but correct

James Bradberry is called for defensive holding.
James Bradberry of the Philadelphia Eagles is called for holding against JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 57 | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

When Patrick Mahomes floated up the hopeless prayer that landed seven yards ahead of JuJu Smith-Schuster on 3rd and 8 late in the fourth quarter, it felt as if we were heading toward the ending Super Bowl 57 deserved. Jalen Hurts, who was exceptional all night long, had just under two minutes to match one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and etch his name in Eagles lure forever.

Then came the laundry.

Just like that, the Eagles were robbed of a chance to tie or win the game, and Harrison Butker kicked the 27-yard field goal that essentially locked up Kansas City’s second Super Bowl title in four years.

But was Philadelphia really robbed? Bradberry did commit a penalty, as he even admitted after the game. You could argue it was a ticky-tacky decision made by a crew that called zero holding penalties — on offense or defense — the entire game to that point. But they decided to flag it this time, and it wasn’t an incorrect call.

The fact of the matter is the Eagles had numerous chances to put the game away before that point, and they simply couldn’t.

The Eagles can’t blame the referees for their Super Bowl 57 loss

Years down the road, Super Bowl 57 will be remembered for the holding penalty that cost the Eagles one final possession. What should be remembered, however, is the 10-point halftime lead they squandered, the four straight second-half possessions in which the defense failed to stop Mahomes, and the crucial mistakes they made that the Chiefs didn’t.

If Jalen Hurts doesn’t inexplicably fumble the football without getting touched to gift the Chiefs seven points, Philadelphia likely takes a three-possession lead into the halftime locker room.

If the pass rush, which recorded 70 sacks in the regular season to mark the third-highest total in NFL history, didn’t get shut out by Kansas City’s offensive line, the Eagles could’ve made the pivotal second-half stop they needed to stop the bleeding.

If Nick Sirianni, who was aggressive all year in fourth-and-short situations, trusted his offense to get two yards instead of punting the ball away in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia’s faulty special teams unit wouldn’t have reared its ugly head at the worst possible time to hand the Chiefs another free touchdown.

That’s the problem with ifs, I suppose.

The Eagles were the better team in Super Bowl 57, but they made the mistakes that Mahomes, Andy Reid, and the Chiefs didn’t. That’s what cost them a championship, not the referees.


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