GLENDALE, Ariz. — The controversial defensive holding call on Philadelphia Eagles corner James Bradberry that basically sealed Super Bowl 57 for the Kansas City Chiefs wasn’t all that controversial, according to the three people whose opinions mattered the most:
Bradberry, Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and referee Carl Cheffers.
Reaction to James Bradberry Holding Call in Super Bowl 57
“It was a holding,” Bradberry said in the locker room. “I tugged on the jersey.”
Did Smith-Schuster believe he was held on third-and-eight from the Eagles’ 15-yard-line?
But the five-yard penalty and automatic first down wasn’t as cut-and-dry to the tens of millions of people watching. While Bradberry was no doubt a bit handsy on the Patrick Mahomes incompletion, far more egregious infractions go uncalled most every game.
And the decision to assess the penalty basically ensured the Chiefs would win. They got a fresh set of downs at the Philadelphia 11-yard-line with 1:48 left in regulation of a tied game.
The Eagles, with just one timeout remaining, could only watch as Kansas City kneeled twice to set up Harrison Butker’s 27-yard field goal with 27 seconds remaining.
Certainly, it was an anticlimactic finish to an all-time great game. And it added fuel to the fire for conspiracy theorists who already believed the NFL was rigged in favor of the Chiefs.
The controversial finish came just four days after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he doesn’t think NFL officiating “has ever been better.”
Referee Carl Cheffers on Holding Call
After the game, Cheffers spoke with PFWA pool reporter Lindsay Jones about the decision to penalize Bradberry. Here’s the transcript of the interview.
Question: Take me through that holding call on the final drive against the Eagles. What did you see there?
Cheffers: “The receiver went to the inside, and he was attempting to release to the outside. The defender grabbed the jersey with his right hand and restricted him from releasing to the outside. So, therefore, we called defensive holding.”
Question: What specifically about that play was the part that merited the flag, just to be perfectly clear?
Cheffers: “The grabbing of the jersey that restricted his free release to the outside.”
Question: Was that a pretty clear case of it from your vantage point?
Cheffers: “It was a clear case of a jersey grab that caused restriction.”
Question: How much debate was there amongst the crew when that flag was thrown? Was there a discussion amongst the crew?
Cheffers: “There was no debate. Just making sure what he had, and once he told us what he had, we went about our business.”
Question: The restriction, did it happen at the top of the route, or was it after the receiver had turned?
Cheffers: “He went to the inside, he put a foot down to try and break to the outside. So, it was right at the break to the outside where the defender grabbed his jersey and prevented his free release to the outside.”
Question: Was there anything about that play or that flag that you think would be helpful for people to know?
Cheffers: “I don’t think so. That’s what we’re looking for, those kind of restrictions in those kind of routes that put the receiver at a disadvantage.”