Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The holding call against James Bradberry in Super Bowl LVII

The Ringer:

The call, which was probably technically correct yet exasperatingly and incongruously ticky-tacky (more on that later), caused a furor both in the stadium and on social media and gave Kansas City a new set of downs. That put the Chiefs back into command, and after subsequently rebuffing the Eagles’ invitation to waltz into the end zone untouched (a ploy that would have at least given Philly the chance to counter), Kansas City kneeled the ball twice, ran the clock down to 11 seconds, and kicked the championship-sealing field goal.

By the letter of the law, it was probably the correct call. And Bradberry even admitted after the game that he tugged on Smith-Schuster’s jersey. But in a critical moment like that, in a game in which referees had been consistently allowing corners a little extra contact and more latitude for physicality (see: a first-quarter third-down throw to Smith-Schuster in which the refs allowed even heavier contact from the defender), it felt like a fickle overreach. It was literally the only holding call in the game, by either team.

There were a lot of things that played into this call. First and fundamentally, it was a correct call:

Pete Scantlebury (Twitter):

Find it very weird that neither Burkhardt nor Olsen were talking about this moment with the hold. Pereira mentioned it but they seemed to brush it off.

This angle wasn't immediately shown in the replays, but it shows the call was good. So, that takes care of the first incendiary issue--was it a bad (i.e., erroneous) call? The answer: no. After that, the question then becomes one of timing and consistency, of which there is a much stronger case for flame. It is a really fair point that this was a pretty reasonably officiated game up until this point. No real cases of "refball." This coming at such a critical point makes it feel incredibly unreasonable--it effectively sealed the deal for the Chiefs. But--does the fact that it's a critical time in the game now mean that penalties are now on the table? Had the Eagles defense looked even remotely functional--they generated zero sacks and even zero tackles for negative yardage--the game wouldn't have been close at all; would the call have still felt so critical? I don't know the answers to these questions definitively, and I was certainly disappointed myself with how the game ended despite not having a dog in this particular fight. 

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