Super Bowl 2023: Late holding penalty lets Chiefs run out clock, prompts outrage from Eagles fans, LeBron James
With 1:54 remaining in Sunday’s Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes lobbed a pass targeting JuJu Smith-Schuster in the end zone.
It fell incomplete on third down, appearing to set up a Chiefs field-goal attempt that would have given them a 38-35 lead and left time on the clock for the Eagles to respond. But a penalty changed the course of the game.
Officials flagged Eagles cornerback James Bradberry for holding Smith-Schuster before the pass fell incomplete. The call gave the Chiefs a first down, and they ran down the clock before Harrison Butker kicked a game-winning field goal with eight seconds remaining.
A desperation Jalen Hurts heave on Philadelphia’s ensuing possession fell incomplete, and the Chiefs held on for the second Super Bowl win of the Mahomes-Andy Reid era. Here’s the penalty that set up the final decisive minutes of the game:
Did officials get it right?
Was that the right call? Did Bradberry impede Smith-Schuster enough to warrant a penalty at the most important juncture of the NFL season. Should the weight of the moment matter as officials make their call?
Some folks didn’t think so, all-time NBA scoring champ and noted NFL fan LeBron James included.
His hand on his back had no effect on his route! This game was too damn good for that call to dictate the outcome at the end. Damn! By the way I have no horse in the race. Just my professional opinion
Philadelphia sports podcaster Victor Williams went as far as calling it the "worst call in SB history."
Williams obviously has an emotional stake in the game, so his opinion comes with a hefty dose of salt. But the call was certainly close and ended up impacting the critical final minutes of the Super Bowl. Williams wasn’t alone in being upset.
(NSFW language warning for Pat McAfee f-bombs below)
Bradberry says he held
Bradberry, however, took no issue with the call. He took accountability for the penalty after the game.
"It was a holding," Bradyberry told reporters, per the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin. "I tugged on the jersey. … They called it. I was hoping they would let it ride."
A screen shot from a sideline angle shows that Bradberry indeed had a handful of Smith-Schuster’s jersey.
For those who didn’t like the call on James Bradberry, here’s the word from the man himself:
“It was a holding. I tugged his jersey. I was hoping they would let it slide." pic.twitter.com/Xz4owgHl0e
Referee Carl Cheffers, meanwhile, explained the penalty in a postgame pool report.
“The receiver went to the inside, and he was attempting to release to the outside,” Cheffers told pool reporter Lindsay Jones. “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 clear case of a jersey grab that caused restriction."
While Cheffers and Bradberry appeared to settle the debate over whether holding actually occurred, questions over whether this instance warranted a call will carry on. Borderline holding that isn’t penalized takes place with regularity in the NFL. Should it have been called here?