The call didn’t decide the game.
It’s inconceivable to think what took place between James Bradberry and JuJu Smith-Schuster with 1:54 left in regulation was the first instance and only instance all game of the letter of the holding law being violated on either side, but a flag finally flying for such an offense then wasn’t what beat the Eagles.
And it was too much to hope for, in retrospect, for the officiating crew to simply apply the same standard for the final two minutes it had clearly established throughout the first 58 and let them play (you know, the way the crew had when Patrick Mahomes was trying to scramble and holding wasn’t called in the closing seconds of the AFC Championship Game). That would have set up Jalen Hurts against the clock and the Chiefs’ defense for either the game-tying field goal or game-winning TD.
And that would have been something to see.
The first holding call of Super Bowl LVII, and the last, as it turned out, rendered the potentially dramatic anti-climatic.
But the Eagles never should have let it come to that.
They’re lament, their regret goes beyond being in the wrong place at the wrong time of the NFL’s standard, make-it-up-as-they-go-along jurisprudence.
It’s the plays the Eagles made and didn’t make that sealed their fate.
In no particular order of significance, those included:
-The false start against guard Isaac Seumalo in the second quarter that turned a third-and-1 into a third-and-5 (somehow it wasn’t third-and-6, but the damage had still been done).
-The fumble by Hurts on the following snap that turned into a scoop and score for Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton and forged a 14-14 tie. Hurts didn’t get hit, he just dropped the ball. And then he inadvertently kicked it to a spot on the field where Bolton could collect it and run it into the end zone unopposed.
-The Chiefs beating the Eagles for walk-in touchdowns on consecutive series in the fourth quarter on plays that resulted from the eventual pass-catcher (wide receiver Kadarius Toney and then wide receiver Skyy Moore) starting in motion and then reversing back toward where they had come from at the snap. On both occasions, the cornerbacks in coverage (Darius Slay and then Avonte Maddox) failed to recognize the change of direction and ran themselves out of coverage. You’d have thought the Philly defense would at least have seen the second one coming.
-Toney’s 65-yard punt return in between the two too-easy fourth-quarter TDs (both of which were scored on third downs). It was a Super Bowl record by 2 yards and it surpassed by 36 yards the Chiefs’ longest such effort of the season (a 29-yard return by Moore that helped the Chiefs escape the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game, the one on which a block in the back wasn’t called).
-A pass rush that had been drawing justifiable comparisons to the ’85 Bears registering zero sacks. One at the right time might have made the difference.
So despite the late holding call, the one that allowed the Chiefs to effectively run out the clock, it’s the Eagles who are culpable.
You could expect the officiating to be better, to be less of a lightning rod for controversy, but if you have been watching the NFL all season why would you?
The Eagles needed to expect better from themselves and they needed to deliver it.
It’s what might have been that should haunt them, not the final call.