Super Bowl thriller tainted by legitimate turf paint/slippery conditions complaints by players on both sides.
GLENDALE: This one is going to hurt for a while.
The Philadelphia Eagles let a 24-14 halftime lead over the Kansas City Chiefs slip away, scoring only eleven points in the second half, while league MVP Patrick Mahomes led his offense to 24 second-half points and a 38-35 victory to claim the 2023 Super Bowl championship at State Farm Stadium in front of 67,827 fans.
Usually, players from the losing team are in the interview room first. Sunday night, it was the opposite.
It was obvious the loss was hard to take.
The Birds (16-4) handed two touchdowns to the Chiefs. The first came after the Eagles had taken 14-7 lead on the first play of the second quarter when Jalen Hurts hit A.J. Brown hit with a 45-yard touchdown pass that seemed destined for a permanent place in Eagles folklore.
The Eagles defense had adjusted after Mahomes marched the Chiefs downfield on their first possession, driving 75 yards on six plays, ending with an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce.
On the Chiefs next possession, their drive stalled at the Eagles 24-yard line. The Birds caught a break when kicker Harrison Butker's 42’yard attempt hit the left upright and bounced wide.
On the Chiefs first possession of the second quarter, the Eagles forced a three-and-out.
Was another powerful Eagles first-half unfolding?
It seemed like the Birds might take a commanding 14-point lead. But the worst-case scenario occurred. Hurts was driving his team down field and had reached near midfield.
On a third-and five from their own 49-yard line, Hurts took the snap clean, then lost control of the ball. The fumble landed behind him.
With all the speedsters already running their routes, it was a walk in the park for linebacker Nick Bolton to scoop up the ball and race 36-yards to tie the game 14-14.
The Eagles would take a ten-point lead into intermission on a four-yard run by Hurts at the 2:20 mark and a 33-yard field goal by veteran kicker Jake Elliott.
Many thought the game was finished when Mahomes took a hit before half and appeared to be in pain, limping to the locker room.
The 27-year-old signal caller came out and picked the Eagles defense apart, scoring 24 points in the second half including the championship points scored on a Butker 27-yard field goal with eight seconds left in the fourth quarter.
“It hurts,” defensive end Brandon Graham said after the game. “We know we didn’t put our best foot forward in this game.
“Give all credit to Kansas City. They came out, the boys played hard until the end. Like I
told the team, ‘don’t forget what you did this year.’ It’s going to serve us next year. Feel this
sting, because it definitely hurts.
Graham seemed to be holding back his emotions.
“Boy, it stings. You can taste it. You can feel it,” the 13-year veteran said. “All we had to do
was make a play on defense. We’re all together, but we know that it sucks that we couldn’t get off the field and make a stop for the offense, because the offense put us in a position. They just got us in the end.“
Mahomes was 21 of 27 for 182 yards and three touchdown passes. He did not turn the ball over and was not sacked. He finished with a quarterback rating of 131.8. His miraculous ankle recovery at halftime will be talked about for years.
The Chiefs, as a team, rushed for 158 yards on 26 carries.
Mahomes rushed six times for 44 yards (7.3 yards per rush). His best run was a 26-yarder on the game-winning drive.
“All credit goes to Kansas City,” said Graham, who did not record a defensive statistic in the game. “They had a great year. We’re just going to feel this one for a minute, but it will definitely make me stronger for this comeback.”
Eagle center Jason Kelce was asked about losing the turnover battle by the slimmest of margins.
“It was a frustrating one, but we made up for it…kind of,” Kelce said after the game. “There were plenty of mistakes to go around today, I certainly had mine. Everybody’s going to want their’ back but you don’t get them back. But I thought we played hard. Jalen played a hell of a game. He was one of the reasons we were in it. I’m really happy for the way Jalen played.”
Hurts was 27 of 38 for 304 yards, one touchdown pass and three rushing touchdowns. He was charged with two sacks (neither were in the pocket) and finished with a quarterback rating of 103.4.
His top targets were DeVonta Smith, who caught seven passes for 100 yards. Brown finished with six receptions for 96 yards and the TD pass.
Tight end Dallas Goedert caught six passes for 60 yards.
The Eagles running backs had virtually no impact on the game running the ball. Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott combined for 45 yards on 17 total carries.
But Hurts’ game will go down as one the greatest performances by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. But Hurts admitted the one stat that will stick with him for a long time is the fumble. The Eagles lost by three. The turnover directly cost the Birds seven points.
“I always hold myself to a very high standard in everything that I do,” Hurts said after the game. “Obviously, I try and control the things that I can, not just the ball every play, so I just try and protect it. But, it hurt us. You never know what play it will be, but it hurt us. You look back and reflect on some of the things that you could have done more, you could have tried and done something to change the outcome of the game. That’s the way it works."
FIELD CONDITIONS – FIELD PAINT – MULTIPLE COMPLAINTS BY BOTH TEAMS
It was obvious players on both teams were having problems with the playing surface. The amount of paint used on the field – including the giant Super Bowl logos that take up a massive amount of space on the field - has been a source of complaints by players for years, especially kickers.
At the 2018 Super Bowl, Eagles kicker Jake Elliott and New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski both complained to league officials prior to game in the slickness of the logos.
Both kickers missed kicks during the game. The following year, Gostkowski missed his first kick of the Super Bowl. All the kicks were attempted on field paint not normally present during regular season or playoff games.
On Sunday, there was enough field paint used on the turf that would likely impress American evangelist Tammy Faye.
“You saw it, y’all watched the same game,” Eagle All Pro edge rusher Haason Reddick said after the game. “ Y’all watched the game, y’all saw it, there was a lot of slipping all over that field. It didn’t even matter, I changed my cleats, still had studs and was still slipping so, I don’t know. You know, I don’t want to use it as an excuse, I’m not that type of guy, I’m not going to make any excuses. They still won, they’re champs, they should enjoy it. We got next year, I still believe in this team and everybody on the staff roster, we’ll be back.”
Reddick, who finished with just one tackle for the game and two quarterback hurries, was asked if this was the worst field he has played on since becoming a professional.
“Most definitely,” he said. “I’m not going to lie it was the worst field that I’ve ever played on.”
Reddick continued to talk about his frustration with the field conditions.
“It was very disappointing, it’s the NFL,” Reddick said. “You would think it would be better so we could get some better play, but it is what it is. I don’t know maybe the league will look at it and tell Arizona they got to step their stuff up. I don’t know, it’s not my decision to make, it’s not my call to make whatever it is and what it is.”
There were no actual sacks in the game. The two registered to Hurts were from him running out of bounds.
Reddick said the painted turf made it nearly impossible to rush the quarterback.
“It was hard, I said it earlier, if you said I’d beat my man a couple of times, just try to turn the corner, I was slipping, I just couldn’t turn the corner.
“So, I mean it is what it is, I’m not making excuses. Like I said, they won, congratulate them, they’re champs, they should enjoy it, we got next year.” *