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5 woulda, coulda, shoulda moments that cost the Eagles a Super Bowl

If just one of these things goes the other way, the Birds are Super Bowl champions.

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Super Bowl 57 had no miracle moment for the Eagles. No, those moments were reserved for the champions, as is often the case.

The Eagles lost 38-35 to the very much deserving Kansas City Chiefs, led by a heroic performance from Patrick Mahomes and the brilliant Andy Reid. Despite possessing an overall inferior roster to Philadelphia, the greatness of these two men was enough for the Chiefs to overcome a legendary outing from Jalen Hurts, resulting in a defeat that will haunt Eagles fans for years.

So many missed opportunities.

The biggest difference between their Super Bowl 52 victory five years ago and last night’s loss was one play by the defense. Against Tom Brady and the Patriots, New England began a drive that could have given them the lead with a little over two minutes left, a drive that was aborted by Brandon Graham’s now-famous strip sack.

With a little over five minutes to play and the game tied at 35, the Eagles’ defense could not provide a similar moment.

As a result, the Birds fell to 1-3 in the Big Game, despite four total touchdowns from Hurts, who played better than anyone could have ever imagined. Credit Nick Sirianni for having his team ready to play from the opening gun, slugging it out toe-to-toe with the experienced Chiefs until the final gun, but the end result was maddening and disappointing.

Despite the defensive shortcomings, the Eagles should have won this game. They became just the second team in Super Bowl history to blow a 10-point halftime lead (Atlanta was the first), and they utterly dominated the stat sheet.

But it wasn’t enough. There were so many “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments that, had they gone the other way, would have resulted in an Eagles parade later this week. Here are the five that we’ll be talking about forever.

Isaac Seumalo’s False Start

Talk about the Butterfly Effect. The Eagles were up 14-7 with about 10 minutes left in the 2nd quarter and just forced a three-and-out from the Chiefs. Facing a 2nd and 1 from the KC 47, Kenneth Gainwell was stopped for no gain after slipping on the ridiculous Phoenix turf (more on that in a minute), forcing a 3rd and 1. No biggie, as the Eagles set up for what would certainly be an easy QB sneak conversion.

Until Isaac Seumalo moved early. The refs almost didn’t call it, only until every Chiefs defensive player jumped up and began to point. The false start pushed the Eagles back five yards to their own 49, setting up a more difficult 3rd-and-6.

Then, disaster stuck.

Hurts simply handed the Chiefs seven free points and, even worse, potentially took at least a field goal off the board for the Eagles and potentially an opportunity to go up 21-7. Instead, it was 14-14 on a play that was, without question, Hurts’ fault, but would never have happened if Seumalo hadn’t jumped.

The Slippery Field

You certainly can’t pin this loss on the slippery field, because both teams had to play on it. But for whatever reason, it appeared the Eagles had a harder time dealing with it than the Chiefs did.

One of the keys to an Eagles victory was getting consistent pass pressure on Patrick Mahomes, and it simply never happened. A combination of solid pass protection, quick throws and running plays, and the slippery field, did in the Eagles’ vaunted D-line.

Again, not an excuse, but a reason. It’s hard to rush the passer when you’re lying face down on the ground.

Sirianni’s Punt Decision

Nick Sirianni’s aggressiveness compared to Andy Reid’s decision to kick a field goal on a 4th-and-short in the 1st quarter was emerging as perhaps the No. 1 storyline of the first half. The Eagles were aggressive, as they had been all season, and it was one of the biggest reasons they had built a 10-point halftime lead, even with Hurts’ fumble-six.

So it was curious when, trailing 28-27 with 10 minutes left in the game, Sirianni decided to punt when faced with a 4th-and-3 from his own 32 yard line. Traditionally, coaches wouldn’t think twice about kicking in this situation, even with Mahomes and the Chiefs rolling. If you don’t convert, you absolutely hand the Chiefs at least three points, if not more. However, modern NFL metrics indicate Sirianni should have gone for it.

Given Sirianni’s decisions earlier in the game, it was curious he didn’t. Instead, this happened.

Siposs’ punt was supposed to go to the left, but he shanked it, resulting in the longest punt return in Super Bowl history. The Chiefs added another touchdown and went up 8, although Reid was again rewarded for his cowardice when he opted not to go for two and make it a two-score game.

What if Sirianni had gone for it? In the end, it wouldn’t have been any worse, because the Chiefs ended up with the ball at the Eagles’ five yard line anyway. In an alternate universe, the Eagles convert on 4th and 3, keep the drive alive and take the lead. But not last night.

Quez Watkins’ Drop

This was a killer.

I mean, just look at this throw. Facing a blitz right in his face, Hurts fires a strike to Watkins, who should have caught it in stride. But Watkins slowed down on his route, forcing him to fall behind the play a bit, then failed to bring the ball in despite getting both hands on it.

Watkins came up exceedingly small over the second half of the season, and the Eagles must do better in finding a No. 3 receiver for next year. Had he hauled it in, the Eagles likely score a touchdown on that drive, pushing the lead to 31-21, rather than 27-21.

The Penalty

The holding call on James Bradberry didn’t lose the game for the Eagles, but it certainly prevented them from trying to mount a realistic chance of sending the game to overtime.

Bradberry himself admitted that he held on the play, and credit to him for taking ownership of his mistake. By the letter of the law, he held, and in the middle of the game, you wouldn’t blink when the yellow hankie hits the ground. But for the officials to insert themselves in that in that moment, with everything on the line, was difficult to accept.

It’s also fair to note that the coaching staff needed to make it clear that giving up a touchdown in that moment was not the worst thing that could happen. Even if the Chiefs score on that 3rd down play, the Eagles would have had a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and about 1:40 left on the clock. A penalty was the only thing that could have prevented the Eagles from mounting any kind of comeback, but that’s exactly what happened.

Despite these five moments, the Eagles lost this game because Jonathan Gannon’s defense was unable to find an answer for Mahomes & Reid.

But even with those failings, had just one of those five items above gone the Eagles’ way, they would have won Super Bowl 57. Unlike their win over the Patriots, the football gods did not smile on the Birds last night.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

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