By Mark Donovan
Does the NFL really think that playing its biggest game on a field that makes players slip and slide is acceptable?
With the surface seeming to get worse as the night wore on, players from both teams had a hard time keeping their footing on Sunday, leading several to change their cleats during a game that ended with the Kansas City Chiefs’ dramatic 38-35 comeback win over the Eagles.
“It was like playing on a water park,” Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata said.
“I’m not going to lie, it was the worst field that I’ve ever played on,” linebacker Haason Reddick added,
The Birds failed to sack the injured Patrick Mahomes once in the game.
“It was very disappointing. It’s the NFL. 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.”
Players complained about field conditions at the BCS National Championship between Oregon and Auburn in 2010. Same thing in the College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Clemson in 2015. The Fiesta Bowl has had its share of grassy slipups as well.
The Super Bowl was no different — even after the NFL spent nearly two years preparing the field.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes slipped while trying to make a cut, but was able to gain a few more yards. Kansas City receiver Skyy Moore lost his footing on a jet sweep and running back Isiah Pacheco even slipped during his celebration after scoring a touchdown.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and tight end Dallas Goedert were among the players who changed cleats to get better traction.
“I changed my cleats and right before the second half wore the different ones,” Goedert said. “The second half, you know, the field was tearing up a little bit but, you know, once again, we’re playing on the same field as the Chiefs.”
The NFL spent nearly two years preparing the field for the Super Bowl, the sod grown at a Phoenix farm. It was installed two weeks ago and put outside each day for sunshine. (The grass at State Farm Stadium is on a giant tray that is rolled in and out of the retractable roof stadium.) It cost $800,000 to prepare, according to George Toma, the 94-year-old groundskeeper who has prepared the field for all 57 Super Bowls.
“I believe this is the second best grass we’ve had,” Toma said during Super Bowl week, ranking only the field for the rainy Colts-Bears Super Bowl in 2007 higher. “You have to have a good root system, and this field is very tight.”