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Complaints continue over James Bradberry holding foul

Mike Florio and Chris Simms dissect the James Bradberry holding call on the game-winning drive of Super Bowl LVII to discuss why the nature of seeing an NFL jersey stretch indicates a clear hold.

We had a great Super Bowl. But, yes, it could have been even better.

It could have been even better if the Chiefs had tried what would have been a 33-yard field goal with 1:48 to play, giving the Eagles plenty of time to try to force overtime with a field goal or perhaps to win in regulation with a touchdown. But the defensive holding penalty on Eagles cornerback Jame Bradberry prevented this from happening, giving the Chiefs a fresh set of downs while Philly had only one timeout left and allowing Kansas City to milk the clock down to eight seconds before kicking off.

But Bradberry indeed held Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. And the officials called it. Yes, it made the finish anticlimactic. But that happens sometimes, and the fact that it did doesn’t make it a bad call.

Holding is holding. We complain when we see it and it isn’t called. Why are we complaining that it was?

The most obvious explanation is that we wanted to witness something more historic, more memorable. If the Eagles had tied the game at 38, it would have been the first overtime postseason game with the new rule that an opening-possession touchdown doesn’t win the game, and it would have been only the second overtime game in Super Bowl history. And at 38-38, it also would have been the highest scoring Super Bowl of all time.

NBA great LeBron James gave credence to the witnessing-history argument with his tweet from Sunday night: “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.”

LeBron may have had no horse in the race (like he did when he recently launched into an extended complaint after not drawing a foul in a key moment of a game), he wanted to see a photo finish. That was his bias in complaining about the call.

So what should have happened? Should the officials have not called holding when holding happened? Bradberry, who has admitted that he committed a foul, pulled Smith-Schuster’s jersey. Not the shirt under the jersey, which we often see pull away from the player’s waist, but the actual game jersey. Bradberry pulled the game jersey that clings tightly to the player’s torso.

Those jerseys don’t give easily. They’re tight. Extremely tight, as we’ve seen. In order to pull the material away from the player, significant force needs to be applied. That force necessarily impedes the player who is trying to separate from a defender.

Some have said the ball wasn’t catchable. But the infraction wasn’t pass interference. Bradberry held Smith-Schuster, before the pass was thrown. Even if quarterback Patrick Mahomes had thrown it into the front row or to another receiver or hadn’t thrown it at all, it still would have been a foul.

Yes, it would have been great to see Super Bowl LVII finish like (for example) Super Bowl XLIII, when the Steelers -- down three points -- drove 78 yards in eight plays in 2:02 to score a game-winning touchdown pass, after the Cardinals took a late lead on Larry Fitzgerald’s iconic 64-yard catch and run for the go-ahead score.

But a foul is a foul, and the officials are there to call the fouls. Bradberry acknowledged that he held Smith-Schuster. Bradberry hoped he’d get lucky and not get penalized.

Actually (and as explained in Playmakers), there was a foul that was missed after Pittsburgh receiver Santonio Holmes made the catch that gave the Steelers a 27-23 lead with 35 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIII. Holmes used the ball as a prop in a simulation of (coincidentally) the LeBron chalk toss, a gesture the officials missed. If the officials had seen it (as they should have) and flagged it (as they should have), the Steelers would have kicked off from their own 15.

Which would have given the Cardinals one more chance to win the game. Which means we were collectively robbed of a finish that may have been even better than the Holmes tippy-toe touchdown catch.

Maybe it would have become a thing if Twitter had been as big as it now is. Maybe #NFLrigged would have trended for the rest of the night.

Regardless, in Super Bowl XLVIII, the officials failed to do their jobs. In Super Bowl LVII, they did their jobs. There’s nothing for anyone to be upset about this time around.

And if anyone is still upset, they should be upset with Bradberry for holding Smith-Schuster.