It’s irresponsible to pile on a young player like Joseph Ossai for a single mistake, and Chiefs Kingdom should be quite familiar with the feelings on both sides here.
The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons, and while Chiefs Kingdom has every reason to celebrate, there is one important thing they should do on top of that: take it easy on Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai.
The Chiefs edged past the Bengals 23-20 in the AFC Championship game thanks to a late field goal from Harrison Butker that was only possible thanks to a 15-yard penalty on Ossai.
With the score tied, 17 seconds left on the clock, and the ball at midfield, Patrick Mahomes scrambled as he looked to pick up the crucial yards needed to give his team the chance to win the game late. As Mahomes reached the sideline, Ossai , a second-year defensive end, made what could be the biggest mistake of his short career.
With Mahomes already out of bounds, Ossai shoved him. He and Mahomes went tumbling and the penalty flags went flying. It was unquestionably a late hit, and Ossai was called for unnecessary roughness, tacking an extra 15 yards onto the end of the play that would put the Chiefs comfortably inside the field goal range.
On the very next play, Butker nailed the 45-yard attempt that won Kansas City the game.
Straight away, you could see how upset Ossai was by what had happened. Even before Butker’s kick, cameras showed him on the bench on the sideline visibly distraught. Later, teammates and coaches consoled a devastated Ossai, still sitting on the sidelines while the Chiefs Celebrated on the field.
Speaking after the game, the emotion was visible on Ossai’s face as he wiped away tears while speaking with reporters.
“It was great knowing that I had the support of my teammates,” Ossai said. “I just got to learn from the experience and know not to get close to the quarterback when he is close to that sideline. If there is anything that could possibly cause a penalty in a dire situation like that I got to do better.”
As you would expect, there was anger from at least one Bengal over what happened. LB Germaine Pratt heard yelling “why the f–k you touch the QB!?” as he entered the locker room.
But amongst the frustration, fury, and heartache the Bengals must have felt, there were also scenes of fantastic support, including from BJ Hill, who stood alongside Ossai for his post-game interview.
It is easy to blame Ossai for what happened. inexplicable mistake at the most important time of the contest—but there was so much more to the game than just that last play.
Yes, the penalty played impacted the end result, but it was not what cost Cincinnati the game. What about Joe Burrow’s awful interception late in the second quarter? Or the entire first quarter when the Bengals had zero yards on offense? What about any of the five sacks Cincinnati’s offensive line gave up? time an offensive holding call in the third quarter that came on a 3rd-&-7 that wiped out what would have been a 19-yard gain, forcing the Bengals to punt on a three-and-out?
Those things were just as damaging for the Bengals as Ossai’s penalty was. take the word of Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. Speaking after the game, Taylor had this to say: “Joseph comes to work every day, man. He loves ball. He loves being part of this team. It didn’t come down to that play.”
Ossai himself said Taylor offered words of comfort to him after the game. [Taylor] just told me to keep my head up. He told me there were a bunch of different plays that we had to make, that it didn’t come down to that one,” Ossai said.
There is no question about it: Ossai made a bad play. But you have to feel sympathetic for a player who was doing everything he could to help his team win. He played his heart out and, largely, he played well after picking up a Tackle for loss, two QB hits, and one deflected pass.
The shove wasn’t a dirty hit, it was simply misjudged, a desperate effort late in the contest to try by someone who was just trying to make a difference. Players in the NFL are more than just pro athletes, and sometimes it is easy to forget that.
One negative moment should not define a career. Dee Ford is more than just a player who lined up in the neutral zone, just like Ossai will be more than a player who gave away an unnecessary roughness penalty.
Chiefs Kingdom should feel great about their team’s win, but considering what they went through in the 2018 AFC Championship game against New England, their hearts should also go out to Ossai.