GLENDALE, Ariz. — James Bradberry didn’t blame anyone else. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t try to hide.
He admitted it.
“I mean, I pulled the jersey,” Bradberry said. “They called holding. I was hoping they would let it ride but it was a hold.”
Bradberry was called for a crucial defensive hold with under 2 minutes remaining in the Eagles’ 38-35 loss in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.
Standing by his locker in the Eagles’ somber locker room, Bradberry was asked about the holding call in several different ways. He kept coming back to the same thing: It was a penalty and he just hoped the refs wouldn’t call it.
Had the Eagles gotten off the field on that 3rd-and-8 from the 15-yard line, Andy Reid would have sent out his field goal unit and the Chiefs probably would have taken a three-point lead but would have left the Eagles around 1:48 on the clock to mount a game-winning drive of their own.
Instead, the Chiefs’ drive was extended and they were able to get the clock all the way down to 11 seconds before Harrison Butker drilled a game-winning 27-yarder. That was basically the ball game.
Well after the end of the crushing loss, Jalen Hurts was asked about never getting that opportunity for a real game-winning drive.
“I don’t think this game is defined by one play, one play throughout the game, one call, whatever it was,” Hurts said. “I’m big on self-reflection and reflecting on the things that I could have done better. I’m going to challenge everyone and I’ve already challenged everyone to think about those things because it’s the same process that we go about win, lose or draw. Look yourself in the mirror and be able to learn from everything. You either win or you learn.”
Hurts had one play at the end of the game but his pass fell woefully short after his foot was stepped on by one of his own linemen.
Bradberry said his teammates were picking him up and he was doing the same for them. He said there were many players in that game with a play they wished they could have back.
For this great Super Bowl to come down to a call that was considered ticky-tacky by many is a tough pill to swallow.
“It’s tough. But that’s what they called so we gotta go with it,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “It’s tough. It’s definitely tough. It hurts. That’s how the game goes. Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t. Gotta live with that.”
But head referee Carl Cheffers said there was “no debate” among the crew when the flag was thrown.
“The receiver went to the inside and he was attempting to release to the outside,” Cheffers said, via a pool report. “The defender grabbed the jersey with his right hand and restricted him from releasing to the outside. So, therefore, we called defensive holding.”
Bradberry said that watching the playoffs this year, he’s seen that type of hold called at times and not called at others. That wasn’t meant to be a shot at the referees, but it does say a lot about the state of the uneven officiating in the NFL.
Did he think this particular hold was enough to warrant a flag?
“That’s not up to my judgement,” he answered. “I was hoping he would let it go but of course he’s a ref, this is a big game and it was a hold. So they called it.”
It’s unfair to say this game came down to one penalty because the Eagles’ defense was shredded for most of the second half. Before this holding call, the Chiefs had already scored three touchdowns, including two on 75-yard drives, to erase a 10-point halftime deficit.
It’s just that if the Eagles did get that stop on 3rd-and-8, they still would have had a chance.
Bradberry, 29, is one of several key pending free agents on this Eagles’ Super Bowl roster and this team will look very different in 2023.
So for it to end like this is tough.
“Ah man, it sucks,” Bradberry said. “It’s a blessing to be here and to compete in a Super Bowl. But it sucks to lose.”