GLENDALE, Ariz. — Philadelphia Eagles fans might be miffed at the holding call on James Bradberry that essentially ended the drama in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, but the corner admitted to committing the penalty after getting beat by JuJu Smith-Schuster.
“It was a holding,” he said following the Eagles’ 38-35 loss. “I tugged his jersey. I was hoping they would let it slide.”
With the game tied 35-35 with 1:54 remaining, the Chiefs faced a third-and-8 from the Philly 15. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes lobbed a pass to Smith-Schuster that wasn’t close. However, a flag flew in, giving K.C. an automatic first down, allowing them to drain the clock to 11 seconds before kicking the game-winning field for the win.
“Oh yes, a hundred percent,” Smith-Schuster said when asked if it was a penalty. “My route’s to strike in, strike back out. I mean Bradberry’s a good player, but you know I feel like at some day, the call’s gonna be called.”
After the game, referee Carl Cheffers told pool reporter Lindsay Jones that the grab was transparent and there was “no debate” on whether it was a flag.
“The receiver went to the inside, and he was attempting to release to the outside,” Cheffers said. “The defender grabbed the jersey with his right hand and restricted him from releasing to the outside. So, therefore, we called defensive holding.”
The hold was a disappointing way to end a thrilling contest, but Eagles veteran defensive lineman Brandon Graham said it shouldn’t have come down to that if the Philly D could have gotten stops earlier.
“I trust them refs, man,” Graham told reporters after the game. “The refs gonna make the call in the moment of the game. That one right there, that one stung a little bit, but we shouldn’t even put ourselves in that position.”
The Eagles built a 10-point halftime lead but quickly let it slip away, settling for a red-zone field goal, allowing K.C. to score three consecutive TDs to open the second half, and giving up a big punt return.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said while fans might be bitter over the holding call, it wasn’t what lost Philly the game.
“There’s gonna be calls that are gonna get questioned, right?” he said. “Not only by the referees, there’s going to be questionable things that I do, or questionable things that [defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon] does or [offensive coordinator Shane Steichen] does. Or Jalen (Hurts) does.
“We understand that. But it’s never about one play. They got to make that call in a split decision. I’m not here to debate whether it was the right call or the wrong call. Of course, sometimes I’m like, ‘well, hey, it went against us, of course I don’t like it.’ But they got to do a hard job in split-second decisions. But it never comes down to one play. Even though at times it perceives to. And that’s the parity of this league that you can always think, ‘Well it’s just this play.’ And that’s just not the case. There’s however many plays that we had on offense. There’s however many plays the Chiefs had on offense. And then there’s all those special teams play, too. Again, like I said, they have a hard job to do. Split second. I haven’t seen all the clips, but that’s not what wins or loses the game.”
The penalty might not have lost the Eagles the game, but a collection of crucial errors that allowed Patrick Mahomes and Co. to hang around will sting Philly all offseason.