Super Bowl LVII was an all-time classic despite late game controversy
The stories were flying before kickoff of the 57th Super Bowl. How would the Chiefs defense plan for a Philadelphia Eagles team that ran through the NFC like a buzzsaw? Was Patrick Mahomes going to be fully healthy? How would the Eagles stop Mahomes if he was healthy? A battle of two brothers; an enthralling halftime show and another Chiefs 10-point comeback victory on the biggest stage later, the game is being defined by just a single play for many fans.
The first 20 minutes of the game were packed with action. Philadelphia came out firing, scoring in dominant fashion on their opening drive. The Chiefs responded with an equally impressive drive to tie the game at 7-7 early. The Eagles came back a few drives later, when their quarterback Jalen Hurts launched a 45 yard missile to receiver AJ Brown that was caught in the near corner of the endzone to take a 14-7 lead. Hurts would then fumble on the next Eagles drive and Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton would turn the mistake into points, running it back to the endzone for a 36 yard score and tying the game at 14.
Outside of that miscue, Hurts played one of the best games of his career, amassing 374 total yards and scoring four touchdowns despite Philadelphia falling short. The Eagles started to get into their offense following the turnover, pounding the ball on the ground and eating up the clock to keep the Chiefs offense off the field and out of rhythm. Hurts would score a four yard rushing touchdown on the drive after the fumble, and Eagles kicker Jake Elliott drilled a 35 yard field goal as the half ended.
The Chiefs trailed the game 24-14 at halftime when Rihanna took the stage to perform at halftime. The halftime show had five million more viewers than the second half of the game, and was the second most viewed halftime show of all time, according to FOX Sports. With multiple elevated platforms rising up and down and a shining red Rihanna in the middle of hundreds of white coated backup dancers performing some of her biggest hits, the highly anticipated show delivered on high expectations–even though Rihanna performed while pregnant, which she announced after the game.
Following the show, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes took over the game despite re-aggravating a high ankle sprain that he suffered three weeks prior in the divisional round. The play calling from coach Andy Reid was too much for the Eagles to handle in a second half nightmare for the Eagles.
After controlling the time of possession and keeping Mahomes off the field in the first half, there was nothing the Eagles could do to stop him in the second half. Mahomes threw for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and on the Chiefs final offensive drive he escaped the pocket for a 26-yard gain to put the Chiefs well inside field goal range with the game tied at 35.
Then, the flag of the year was thrown on a crucial third down call that ended the game. While trying to get to the break of his route, Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had his jersey grabbed and yanked by Eagles cornerback James Bradberry, preventing him from getting to the ball. Defensive holding was called, and the Chiefs were given a first down that allowed them to kill almost the entire clock and kick a field goal to win the game.
Fans of other teams joined the Eagles fanbase in blaming the refs for the loss. Bradberry broke the silence about the controversial call in his postgame press conference.
“I pulled the jersey, they called holding. I was hoping they would let it ride, you know, but it was a holding … I was hoping they would let it go,” Bradberry told reporters after the game. Despite him clearing up the controversy, fans still held debates about whether or not the game was scripted for a Chiefs victory.
Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported that the crew officiating the game hadn’t called a defensive holding penalty for 576 consecutive snaps before the final play, which dates back to Dec. 24 of last year. While some agreed that Bradberry held, the stat makes it seem like calling such a bang-bang penalty in the most crucial moment of the NFL season is out of the ordinary – and might explain why Bradberry believed he could avoid the penalty.
The Chiefs also led all teams in 2022 in beneficiary defensive holding calls, receiving 16 of them in 20 games, which is five more calls than the next closest team. The average NFL team commits 0.68 defensive holding penalties per game according to pro-football-reference.com, while the Chiefs benefit from 0.80 defensive holds per game. Despite what these stats may lead people to believe though, defensive holding calls are far from what’s made the Chiefs a modern NFL dynasty.
Since Mahomes took over at QB, the Chiefs have made five consecutive conference championship appearances, three Super Bowl appearances and have won two super bowls despite roster overhaul and injury. Coming into the 2022 season, Mahomes lost his number one receiver in a trade, and proceeded to win the MVP by a nearly unanimous vote, also setting the all-time record for total yards in a season. Fans may not like it, but if there’s one thing in the sports world that’s inevitable – it’s Patrick Mahomes.