How have the Bengals responded to Joseph Ossai after his costly mistake in the AFC Championship Game?
Understandably distraught, after his error led to the Chiefs’ AFC Championship clinching field goal, the Bengals linebacker can rest a little easier with the knowledge that if nothing else, his team has got his back through thick and thin.
The speed with which one can go from hero to hated is truly something to behold in the world of professional sports. Indeed, one need look no further than the Bengals’ Joseph Ossai and the role - to an extent - that he played in what turned out to be the Chiefs game-winning play.
Joseph Ossai’s mistake was costly for the Bengals
You might recall Joseph Ossai’s sack of Patrick Mahomes back in Week 13 of the season. It was in fact a key tackle and one of many that night for Ossai, in what would go on to be a 27-24 win for Cincinnati. Indeed, when we consider that the second-year linebacker missed his entire rookie year through injury after damaging his knee in preseason training, it was a game that signaled his arrival on the big stage. Yet, it would appear that fate had other plans for the Nigerian born defensive end and they weren’t pleasant ones.
Late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s big game, it was Ossai and Mahomes who once again took center stage in the deciding moment, when the former made a late shove on the latter. The subsequent penalty put the Chiefs in prime position to convert what would be the game-winning field goal in the AFC Championship game. As one can imagine, Ossai was inconsolable after the game, however, when he finally arrived in the Bengals’ locker room, he was met with intense support from his equally heartbroken teammates. “Means the world to me,” Ossai said of his teammates. “These guys mean a lot to me. We come every day and we work hard for each other. To know that they have my back is giving me peace right now, for sure.”
What did the Bengals say about Joseph Ossai’s play?
Here’s the thing: As much as Ossai may have made an error, to place the blame on that single moment would be going too far. Indeed, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said after the game when asked about the play. Truth be told there were a myriad of factors in play on Sunday night, not the least of which was the manner in which the Bengals’ offensive line seemed to lose the wind in its sails as the game wore on. Indeed, one could argue that it was that in itself which led to the Chiefs winning the game. Some will of course highlight Mahomes’ sensational performance and it would be a fair point, as well as some very puzzling refereeing decisions. Yet, such is the way of sports: There can only be one winner.
The Bengals stand by Joseph Ossai
Though it was clear that they were hurting post game, it was also clear that the Bengals viewed Ossai as nothing but a brother in arms. Bengals defensive tackle B.J. Novak was on security duty, while Ossai did his best to answer questions after the game. If there is one positive, it’s that despite the loss, the Bengals are now well and truly among the elite teams of the NFL. They will of course be frustrated not to be going to the Super Bowl, but this is now two consecutive trips to the AFC Championship game, which is nothing to do with luck. For the moment, they will have to lick their wounds as they attempt to address what went wrong. Yet, it’s something that star quarterback Joe Burrow doesn’t believe will be a problem.
“We’ll come back, have a great offseason, get better as team, get better individually, and get back next year ready to go,” Burrow said after the loss. “There’s not one guy in that locker room that I don’t have a lot of feelings for or really care for. They all know that. ...I think (the team’s closeness is) why we’ve been in the positions that we’re in.”