Extra Points: Eagles super effort comes up short
ORLANDO, Florida - "Haterade" never tasted so good.
That's probably because I was actually drinking a Mai Tai at a pool bar at an Orlando resort during Super Bowl LVII. But it tasted a tad sweeter because of my prediction for the game. Despite pleas from my wife, Karen, and others, I picked the Chiefs to beat the Eagles and also bet $50 on Kansas City and the over of 50.5 points at the sportsbook at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa before heading south for some fun in the sun.
Chiefs 38, Eagles 35.
Central Florida wasn't all that different than Cape May on Sunday. There were a few folks sporting No. 15 Patrick Mahomes jerseys, but they were outnumbered 10-1 by Eagles fans who broke out into "E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles" chants throughout the day.
That group included Karen, who donned a green, No. 9 Rodney Peete jersey that she's owned since 1996 and shouted "Go Birds" to fellow diners at the Marriott Grande Lakes breakfast buffet and continued the practice while sitting poolside at adjacent Lakeshore Reserve.
When people asked why I was wearing a blue Margaritaville t-shirt and gold Arizona State hat - our son's college alma mater- instead of Eagles garb, she took delight in telling everyone that I was a "hater" who was predicting a Chiefs win.
Other diehard Birds fans such as Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small, former Atlantic City High School boys basketball coach Gene Allen, not to mention so-called friends like Tom Shagren and Frank "Tater"Smith, were actually glad I took Kansas City, citing my mediocre, 11-8 record on Eagles picks this season as a sign that the Birds were going to prevail.
Still others were saltier than the rim on my Margarita.
I thought I had good reasons for my choice. The Eagles had the better overall team, but I thought Mahomes, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones were the best in the league at their respective positions and would make a difference.
I also thought experience mattered, which gave former Eagles and current Chiefs coach Andy Reid a decisive edge over Eagles counterpart Nick Sirianni and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
Ultimately, that proved correct.
The Eagles offense also played great defense in the first half. The best way to contain Mahomes is to keep him on the sideline, which the Birds did by chewing up yards and time. They not only owned a 24-14 lead at halftime, but they also owned a whopping 21:54 to 8:06 advantage in time of possession.
They held the ball almost as long as Rihanna's halftime show.
However, football is a game of adjustments. Reid and company made some while Siranni, Gannon and others did not.
Some Eagles fans want to attribute the loss to the defensive holding penalty on cornerback James Bradberry against Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on the Chiefs game-winning drive - it gave the Chiefs a first down and enabled them to run the clock down to the final seconds - but even Bradberry admitted he had committed the infraction.
"It was holding," he said after the game. "I tugged his jersey. I was hoping they (officials) would let it slide."
There was plenty of blame to go around.
The Eagles vaunted pass rush - they had a team-record 70 in the regular season - was shut out. The entire defense fell apart down the stretch, allowing the Chiefs to score on all four of their second-half possessions.
As a result, the Eagles were just the second team in Super Bowl history to lose after leading by double digits at halftime.
The special teams also picked an awful time to break down, giving up a 65-yard punt return to Kadarius Toney - the longest punt return in Super Bowl history - that led to another Chiefs TD.
Even quarterback Jalen Hurts, who tied a Super Bowl record with three rushing touchdowns and also threw for 304 yards and a TD, lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the first half.
"I trust the refs," Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said after the game. "The refs are gonna make the call in the moment of the game. That one right there (the holding on Bradberry), that one stung a little bit, but we shouldn't even have put ourselves in that position."
The loss marked the end of an historic streak of disappointment for Philadelphia sports teams. According to ESPN and other outlets, Philly became the first pro sports town to see three franchises come up short. The Phillies lost the World Series in six games to the Astros, while the Union lost on penalty kicks to LAFC in the MLS World Cup Final. And now this.
On the bright side, the 76ers seem to be contenders this year, though they haven't won the NBA title since Julius Erving and Moses Malone led them to a championship 1983.
The Eagles could have a tough time continuing this season’s success, despite having one of the league’s top young quarterbacks in Hurts.
They have 20 players set to become unrestricted free agents, including veterans defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Graham, center Jason Kelce and standouts such as Bradberry, linebacker T.J. Edwards, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, and running back Miles Sanders.
My money would be on the Phillies to break the drought. They had a productive offseason that was highlighted by the addition of shortstop Trea Turner. He joins a talented lineup that includes Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and others.
Then again, I picked the Astros to beat them last season.
Time to stock the fridge with more "Haterade."