NFL News & Analysis

Monson: A look back at Super Bowl 57 and the ending that brought us all back to reality

There’s something weird about the desert. For most of human history, people have centered themselves around water — rivers, lakes, coastlines — but the football world descended on Phoenix, AZ., for Super Bowl LVII surrounded by dust, mountains and cactuses.

There’s nothing natural about the Super Bowl fanfare and pageantry, but it can command the same kind of awe you feel looking out over desert landscapes, as well as the same wonder about what the hell you are doing here in the first place.

This was my first time attending the actual game, having scurried home after the madness of Radio Row in previous years before the serious business of football got underway.

I’ve heard a lot about the corporate, sterile environment of Super Bowl games, but this stadium was jumping from the get-go.

The Kansas City Chiefs chants rang out as the Philadelphia Eagles took the field on offense, and the roars in reaction to even mundane plays were intense.

Each team's opening drive only fanned those flames. Both offenses hit the ground running and marched down the field for a touchdown before there was any hint that they might run into any struggles, but the scene on the field was a far cry from the chaos that existed up in the stands before the game.

The auxiliary press box was constructed above the Eagles end zone, cramming in hundreds of additional media members above the usual attendance for an NFL football game. I found myself shoulder to shoulder with Around the NFL’s Gregg Rosenthal and someone covering the game for one of the many international outlets here from around the world.

The cattle pen we were sitting in was nothing compared to the one it created for people on the concourse, where bottlenecks caused by that auxiliary press resulted in masses of humanity grinding to a halt and moving nowhere.

Eventually, the stadium staff figured out that dividing the area into lanes might allow some movement of people, and while the problems eased a little, getting around was anything but simple.

Rumor had it that some of the gridlock was caused by the theft of somebody’s $100,000 jewelry chain, though I suspect basic disorganization is a more likely culprit.

Back on the field, the game was living up to all expectations. The Super Bowl was created as a matchup of champion vs. champion, a clash of two titanic heavyweights battling it out for immortality and supremacy.

This looked like a game between the NFC and AFC champions. Each time one side looked like it had delivered a decisive blow, the other regathered and responded.

At the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 35.

Eventually, though, the clock muscles its way into the frame and becomes a problem for one side. The Chiefs kept the ball and chipped away at the time the Eagles would have to answer any go-ahead score. A defensive holding penalty on James Bradberry gave them a new set of downs and the ability to chew almost all of the remaining time, and they kicked the winning points with just seconds remaining.

This year’s Super Bowl suffered from the same flaw that besets a lot of great stories — the ending. One of the most dramatic games in NFL history just sort of petered out as Kansas City controlled the clock, and the holding call removed almost all doubt.

Talk of the league being scripted has become an internet meme this season, and this game’s script felt like the ending to Game of Thrones — universally lambasted and an unfortunate end to a great work of art.

As I made my way back to the media shuttle bus after the game, the warm sunshine of the opening kickoff had been replaced by the cool desert air of nighttime. The Eagles now have to regroup after that crushing disappointment, but they are well-positioned to do. Their roster-construction hedge means they have two first-round picks, including one in the top 10. This team isn’t going anywhere, and their young quarterback Jalen Hurts showed he is ready to go toe to toe with the league’s best teams.

Super Bowl LVII was billed as one of the best matchups in recent memory, and the game delivered on that promise. Sadly, the ending couldn’t continue the perfect Hollywood script.

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