KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cincinnati Bengals players and coaches gave defensive end Joseph Ossai words of comfort and reassurance after a penalty kick that led to the Kansas City Chiefs’ winning field goal in the championship game of the AFC.
But in the moments after Sunday’s 23-20 loss, Ossai said it was extremely difficult to deal with the sentiment. With red eyes and a soft tone, Ossai lamented his penalty in the final seconds that put Kansas City in position for Harrison Butker’s 45-yard field goal on the penultimate play from scrimmage.
“I have to learn from experience,” Ossai said, relaying advice he received from Cincinnati defensive end Sam Hubbard. “I have to know not to approach that quarterback when he’s close to that sideline if there’s anything that could possibly cause a penalty in such a serious situation. I have to do better.”
On third-and-four at the Cincinnati 47-yard line, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes rushed to his right for a first down. As Mahomes went out of bounds, Ossai pushed Mahomes from behind. Both fell to the ground on the Cincinnati sideline, and Ossai was whistled for unnecessary roughness.
“I was just in chase mode,” Ossai said. “I was trying to push him, maybe back him up because I knew he was aiming for that sideline. I was trying to push him back, run that clock. I haven’t seen him yet. . I don’t know how far we were out of bounds.”
The 15-yard penalty put Kansas City in position for the kick with: 03 remaining. After winning 10 straight games — and after winning three in a row over Kansas City — the Bengals were knocked out of the playoffs in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game.
Ossai said he injured his left knee during the incident with Mahomes. He will undergo an MRI to determine what damage, if any, has 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’s a bunch of different games we need to do, it’s not just about that one, and we just need to keep moving forward.”
There were several issues that plagued Cincinnati in its bid to repeat as the AFC champion and return to the Super Bowl.
As a team, the Bengals committed nine penalties for 71 yards. Quarterback Joe Burrow has been sacked five times. Kansas City wide receiver Skyy Moore returned Drue Chrisman’s punt 29 yards, giving the home side the ball on their own 47-yard line with just 30 seconds left in the game.
Bengals defensive tackle BJ Hill, who flanked Ossai as he fielded questions from reporters in the locker room after the game, said he had no qualms with Ossai on that penalty.
“I do not have [any] hard feelings about this game because I knew what his intention was: just to play hard,” Hill said.
Hill praised Ossai for his efforts in his first season in the NFL. The 22-year-old from the University of Texas was drafted in the third round in 2021 but missed that entire campaign after suffering a meniscus injury in the preseason. When Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson suffered a wrist problem late in that regular season, Ossai’s use increased.
Against Kansas City and Mahomes, Ossai recorded two hits for the quarterback.
“You just built this young guy up and made him realize that 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.
“This game is going to find him. These roles are going to find him as a player, and just be ready for that.”
Reader said he had no doubts about it.
“That pain is going to drive him to be awesome,” Reader said. “He will get there.”