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A critical call against the Philadelphia Eagles with time running out in the Super Bowl engendered anger among Eagles fans, but the player called for the penalty admitted that he indeed committed the infraction.
With 1:54 remaining in the game and the score tied at 35-35, the Kansas City Chiefs were sitting with a third and eight on the Eagles’ 15-yard line. As Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes called the signals, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster turned and headed toward the offensive line, then zipped toward the center of the field when the ball was snapped before reversing direction and heading out toward the sideline. Eagles cornerback James Bradberry reached out and briefly grabbed Smith-Schuster’s jersey before the two headed toward the corner of the endzone. Mahomes floated a pass over their heads that fell incomplete, but Bradberry was called for holding, a penalty that gave the Chiefs an automatic first down and a chance to run the clock down to eight seconds before kicking the game-winning field goal.
Here’s right before the jersey pull which also looks like holding too pic.twitter.com/OW5bvE1nsZ
— Pete Scantlebury (@PeteScantlebury) February 13, 2023
HUGE HOLDING CALL pic.twitter.com/rvWkQmG5yV
— Arye Pulli (@AryePulliTSP) February 13, 2023
“The receiver went to the inside and he was attempting to release to the outside,” head referee Carl Cheffers explained. “The defender grabbed the jersey with his right hand and restricted him from releasing to the outside. So, therefore, we called defensive holding.”
“It was a holding. I tugged his jersey. I was hoping they would let it slide,” Bradberry said after the game. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni dismissed the idea that the call was solely responsible for the loss of the game, saying, “It always appears to be one call. … That is not what it is. So many teams contribute to the result of the game. Today they were better.”
But some former NFL players asserted that although the call was technically correct, the time and place of the call was a mistake.
Former NFL Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney tweeted, “They have been making that type of contact with receivers the entire game and there hasn’t been a call… then you wait till that moment to call PI is tough.”
They have been making that type of contact with receivers the entire game and there hasn’t been a call… then you wait till that moment to call PI is tough
— Dwight Freeney (@dwightfreeney) February 13, 2023
Former NFL punter Pat McAfee harshly criticized the call, declaring: “That ref making that holding call at that time at that stage at that game? Super Bowl? Huh? Huh? That wins the game. Game over. Kneel it out. Kick a field goal. You got six seconds left on the whole f***ing clock? It’s over. There’s a chance that Butker makes his field goal, then Eagles are available to move, they’ve scored 35 points doing everything, they go down, they kick a field goal, obviously we have an overtime.”
“What I need to say is, hey refs, can’t f***ing call that there. Okay?” McAfee continued. “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!”