We often lose the perspective that more than one thing can be true about a given subject—even defensive holding calls.
There’s the conversation we should be having and the conversation we are having, and it’s a tragedy that these two are not one and the same. That’s because when it comes to Super Bowl LVII, we should be unanimously appreciating it for being one of the single greatest games ever to be played at the summit of an NFL season.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles gave football fans nearly everything they could have wanted. There was Patrick Mahomes’ injury and the resulting heroism. There was the incredible young phenom in Jalen Hurts proving how bright the future in Philly There was the brilliant first-year coach against the future Hall of Famer. There were two top-ranked teams featuring loads of Pro Bowlers competing for the ultimate prize. Oh yeah, and it went down to the final play of the game .
It was a dream come true for the NFL with ratings results to match. So why aren’t we talking about it as such?
Instead, there’s a call—the call—that will forever be linked with this game, a defensive holding penalty on Eagles cornerback James Bradberry against Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster that allowed a new set of downs and more time to be taken down. That single drain kept Philly from being able to answer the question, “What if?” And no question is as maddening as that one .
In the aftermath, the world of NFL fans has been divided by this single call. Was it right? Was it wrong? How much did it matter?
Truth No. 1: Carl Cheffers is the worst
It’s a problem that any of us even know who Carl Cheffers is in the first place.
Football officials should be like basketball referees or baseball umpires—unobstrusive figures providing quiet boundaries and logical enforcement who do their best to allow players to do what they signed up to do in the first place: to actually play.
If you, as a sports fan, are aware of any official or ref or umpire by name, then that means there’s something wrong, that something has been broken or altered between what that person is supposed to be/do and what they are actively being /doing. But occasionally, there is that figure, that arbitrator, who has a penchant for making himself a part of the conversation, placing himself more central to the action on the field than he ever should have in the first place
We knew this going in about Chefs.
All of this is important because Cheffers is once again a part of the discussion, lodged distinctly into the memory of a matchup, and this time it’s more than frustrating—it’s just wrong. so divisive that it’s hard for some of us to see, or at least give credit to, the validity of any other position involved here.
But, yes, it’s true that Cheffers is a problem and it’s made even worse because we all knew this even before Super Bowl LVII.
Truth No. 2: The call was correct
The NFL is not immune to insane calls. Hell, even trying to figure out whether or not something is a “catch” requires some sort of graphing calculator from Texas Instruments, the game-used gloves of Dwayne Bowe, and an ouija board. ‘ve all watched phantom calls affect our favorite teams, and we’ve also watched the flip side happen—an egregious foul or hit or pull or tug obviously affects the game but the official is too busy looking up Gracie Hunt pageant photos.
However, this holding call, the frustrating one on the biggest stage of all, is not one of them.
Look, you can say, from your well-worn faux leather armchair with built-in cupholders, that you saw the play and nothing happened. That doesn’t change the fact that both the offender and the offended agree on the facts—that Bradberry committed a defensive holding penalty on Smith-Schuster. Bradberry admitted as much after the game and even said that he simply hoped he’d get away with it. Smith-Schuster also said they called it right.
Here’s Bradberry: “It was a holding. I tugged his jersey. I was hoping they would let it slide.” That’s a simple three-part statement guiding any naysayer to the truth that should silence anyone who wants to scream full-throatedly that they know otherwise.
Truth No. 3: The Eagles lost for other reasons
By now, we’ve affirmed that Bradberry was guilty but that Cheffers is sh*tty and somehow both of those are true at the same time. Now let’s add one more truth to the tension: the Eagles didn’t lose because Bradberry decided he wanted to see how much he could get away with defensively.
The Eagles lost to the Chiefs because Andy Reid figured out how to peel that defense away from his scheme like a ripe banana. The Eagles lost to the Chiefs because they didn’t put up a single sack on Patrick Mahomes, even though he was playing on an ankle manufactured by my son’s Playdough Make-A-Meal. The Eagles lost because they gave up well over half of a first down every time the Chiefs ran the football. The Eagles lost because the Chiefs converted 80 percent of their red zone attempts against a defense that was talked about more than a vegan talking about veganism.
Did it help? No. Did it hurt? Sure. Was the body already well on the way to the mortuary? Absolutely. Bradberry’s holding call was a paper cut on a victim bleeding out. why the Eagles lost” only turned on the game for the few seconds Carl Cheffers wanted to violate the norms of his post.
Sorry but that’s the truth.