KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cincinnati Bengals players and coaches gave defensive end Joseph Ossai words of solace and comfort following a penalty that led to the Kansas City Chiefs‘ game-winning field goal in the AFC Championship Game.
But in the moments after Sunday’s 23-20 loss, Ossai said it was extremely tough to process the sentiment. With reddened eyes and a soft tone, Ossai lamented his penalty in the closing seconds that put Kansas City in position for Harrison Butker‘s 45-yard field goal on the penultimate play from scrimmage.
“I gotta learn from experience,” Ossai said, relaying the advice he received from Cincinnati defensive end Sam Hubbard. “I gotta know not to get close to that quarterback when he’s close to that sideline if it’s anything that could possibly cause a penalty in a dire situation like that. I gotta do better.”
On third-and-4 at Cincinnati’s 47-yard line, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes scrambled to his right to gain a first down. As Mahomes stepped out of bounds, Ossai shoved Mahomes from behind. The two tumbled to the ground on Cincinnati’s sideline, and Ossai was whistled for unnecessary roughness.
“I was just in full chase mode,” Ossai said. “I was trying to push him, maybe get him going backwards because I knew he was going for that sideline. I was trying to make him go backwards, get that clock running. I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t know how far out of bounds we were.”
The 15-yard penalty put Kansas City in position for the kick with :03 remaining. After winning 10 straight games — and having posted three consecutive victories against Kansas City — the Bengals were eliminated from the playoffs in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game.
Ossai said he injured his left knee in the incident with Mahomes. He will get an MRI to determine what damage, if any, occurred.
He also said Bengals coach Zac Taylor was among those who offered encouragement after the game.
“He just told me to keep my head up,” Ossai said. “Told me there were a bunch of different plays we had to make, that it didn’t come down to that one, and we just gotta keep moving forward.”
There were several issues that plagued Cincinnati in its attempt to repeat as AFC champion and return to the Super Bowl.
As a team, the Bengals committed nine penalties for 71 yards. Quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked five times. Kansas City wide receiver Skyy Moore returned Drue Chrisman‘s punt 29 yards, giving the home team the ball at its own 47-yard line with just 30 seconds left in the contest.
Bengals defensive tackle BJ Hill, who flanked Ossai as he answered questions from reporters in the locker room after the game, said he had no qualms with Ossai on that penalty.
“I don’t have [any] hard feelings about that play at all because I knew what his intention was: just to play hard,” Hill said.
Hill praised Ossai for his efforts in his first NFL season. The 22-year-old out of the University of Texas was drafted in the third round in 2021 but missed that entire campaign after he suffered a meniscus injury in the preseason. When Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson experienced a wrist issue toward the end of this regular season, Ossai’s usage increased.
Against Kansas City and Mahomes, Ossai registered a team-high two quarterback hits.
“You just build that young guy up and let him understand it’s going to come down to inches in this league,” Cincinnati defensive tackle DJ Reader said. “And he’ll be there to make a lot of plays.
“That play is going to find him again. Those roles are going to find him again as a player, and just be ready for it.”
Reader said he had no doubt about that.
“This pain is going to drive him to be great,” Reader said. “He’ll get there.”