Winners and Losers of Super Bowl LVII

Every week this NFL season, we’ll be celebrating electric pranks, investigating colossal errors, and explaining the last game’s unexplained moments. Welcome to Winners and Losers. Which one are you?

Winner: Patrick Mahomes

At the end of his fifth season as an NFL player, Patrick Mahomes already has an NFL Hall of Famer resume. He won his second Thursday night MVP after leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns this season, and capped it off with a second Super Bowl championship and second Super Bowl MVP on Sunday against the Eagles.

Mahomes threw three passing touchdowns in Kansas City’s 38–35 win, but his most important game was arguably the scrum. Just three weeks after injuring his ankle against the Jaguars and flaring up again in the second quarter, he snapped a 26-yard run—the longest of the season—to send Kansas City into the red zone in a tie. game with three minutes remaining, helping to easily score the game-winning field goal:

This is the second Super Bowl that Mahomes has led a double-figure comeback in the second half, with the Chiefs trailing 20–10 late in the third quarter in 2020; on Sunday they were trailing 24-14 at halftime. In the fourth quarter of those two games, he threw four touchdowns and one interception.

Mahomes only had 182 passing yards and averaged less than 7 yards per try. He didn’t have any of his trademark miracle throws; Eagles QB Jalen Hurts had more passing yards and more chances. But in four hours of football, Mahomes didn’t make a single mistake. He had no turnovers and, despite pressured at 25.9 percent of his failureshe was never fired. He completed 21 of 27 passes, and two of his incomplete shots were shots, so he basically hit 84 percent of his shots. He completed the Chiefs’ entire postseason run with no interceptions. Mahomes is usually effective; in the Super Bowl, he was dependable—and just what the Chiefs needed as they roared back to win their second title in four years.

Loser: Ball safety

The best player in the Super Bowl was not the lame Mahomes. It was Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, who played the best game of his exciting football career. He threw for 304 yards and had three touchdowns; he threw the needle threader with perfect accuracy between the Kansas City cornerbacks; he scored the game-tying touchdown And two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.

But Hurts made one game-changing mistake. With the Eagles up 14–7 in the first half, Philadelphia called it a QB tie for the Hurts. The Chiefs got it right, demanding that Hurts make a move to take down Kansas City linebacker Nick Bolton. At the same time, Hurts clumsily knocked the ball out of his hands. It was an unforced fumble and Bolton returned it for 36 yards for a touchdown:

It was a lifeline when the Chiefs were floundering. The Eagles won a touchdown and moved the ball at will throughout the first half; suddenly the game was a draw. It would be foolish to think that this game alone caused the Eagles to lose—they dropped points in every other inning Kansas City—but it was a huge shift in momentum that led to biggest shift in win probability (to date) in any game all night.

Sunday night was proof that the Hurts are a good enough QB to win the Super Bowl. He is a great passer, a sensational runner and a fantastic leader. When he was younger, he gave up at the big moments — he was terrible in the national championship game as a freshman and was great on the bench as a sophomore — but on Sunday night he was ready for the challenge on the biggest stage… except for the time when he forgot to hold on to the soccer ball.

Winner: Kadarius Toni

We love the surprise performance in the damn Super Bowl! Who can forget former Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews (176 career yards) throwing for 109 yards and a TD against the Patriots in 2015, or former Washington Washington running back Timmy Smith (602 career yards) who was the only player with 200 yard dash. Super Bowl game?

This year’s candidate is Kadarius Toni. An outstanding player on the 2021 combine, he never scored a touchdown for the Giants, who selected him 20th overall in that year’s draft. Tony always had some sort of inexplicable nagging injury; despite the Giants struggling to find enough receivers to field this season, he barely played. New York’s new coaching staff had little interest in the player their sacked predecessors had chosen, so they traded Tony to the Chiefs in October. He was a starter for the Chiefs, but recorded just 14 catches in the regular season.

But on Sunday night in the fourth quarter, he made a couple of plays that would cement his glory for the Chiefs. First, he lost an Eagles guard to a nasty throw to open wide for an easy touchdown on Mahomes’ round pass; I’m not sure the Eagles realized where Tony was until the pass was in the air.

This gave the Chiefs a 28–27 lead; a few minutes later Tony helped prolong it. On a short punt, Tony broke a tackle, turned the field over and ended up behind a wall of blocking Chiefs. He showed his 40-yard speed in 4.38 seconds and brought the ball to the Eagles’ 5-yard line. At 65 yards, it’s the longest punt return in Super Bowl history.

Tony was a great addition to the Chiefs, who started the year with Sky Moore trying (and usually failing) to bring back punts. He’s just as fast and talented as he was when the Giants drafted him, and now Patrick Mahomes is dumping him. Maybe Tony will be another superbowl hero, or maybe Sunday was the night the guy so quickly called a bust started turning his career around.

Loser: Defensive Holding

I don’t believe in a vast conspiracy of NFL referees to give the championship to certain teams, but if there wereit will include 50-50 calls in the decisive minutes of close games – something that happened in the last moments of the last two Super Bowls.

Super Bowl LVII was a thriller, with the Chiefs and Eagles sharing nine touchdowns, 757 offensive yards, and flashy defense and special teams. The Chiefs closed a 10-point lead, then the Eagles hit a late touchdown and converted a two-pointer to tie the game at 35 with five minutes left. But the game ended in a disappointing fart.

With two minutes left, officials called Eagles defenseman James Bradberry to hold up Chiefs wide receiver Juju Smith-Shuster, giving the Chiefs their first try at the 11-yard line. In an extremely rare case of honesty from an athlete associated with refereeing, Bradberry admitted to grabbing the Smith-Schuster jersey– but it’s kind of a tick-tock that didn’t seem to have a significant impact on the game. Lead blog Football zebras called it “one to pass on”:

The flag gave Kansas City a new streak of falls, which was a major test for the Eagles as they ran out of timeouts. The Chiefs had the opportunity to end the game effectively without scoring a touchdown. Running back Jeric McKinnon missed an opportunity to score a touchdown by moving the boundaries to keep the clock running“I don’t know how he resisted the urge to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl; for that he deserves some sort of trophy – Mahomes then kneeled twice to cut the time to eight seconds. Kicker Harrison Butker hit a field goal from 27 yards with less than 10 seconds left – the least exciting play imaginable winning the Super Bowl. (It wasn’t much different from how the Chiefs won the AFC Championship game two weeks ago, scoring the game-winning field goal after needlessly roughing up the Bengals, putting the Chiefs within field goal distance.)

It also felt amazingly similar to the end of last year’s Super Bowl. when Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson was tagged for questionably holding Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp with less than two minutes left, arranging the winning touchdown for the Rams. This situation was slightly different as the Rams still needed to score a touchdown while the Chiefs were already in a position to score a field goal. But both were dubious signals that turned third down stops into first downs in the red zone.

The referees were pretty decent for most of the game, and some of the biggest calls were in Philadelphia’s favor (notably a missed touchdown by Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton during a catch fumble and Bradberry’s no-hold call early in the game), but in in the end, the call that shouldn’t have been made caused a massive shift in determining who won the NFL championship. Again.

Winner: Doinks

Super Bowl is…


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