Joseph Ossai’s hit on Patrick Mahomes goes down in Bengals infamy, however he did not face scrutiny alone

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — B.J. Hill stands 6-foot-3, weighs 311 kilos and had simply spent three hours attempting to haul down Patrick Mahomes.

Now the Cincinnati Bengals defensive deal with had taken on a brand new job, the world’s most intimidating, and maybe protecting, press agent.

Inside a devastated Cincinnati Bengals locker room, Hill stood instantly on the left shoulder of teammate Joseph Ossai and warned the media that had gathered in entrance of them.

“Any dumb questions and I’m shutting this down,” Hill stated.

There was no cause to not consider he would, or much more if essential.

The Bengals had just lost the AFC championship game, 23-20 to Kansas City, on a subject purpose with simply three seconds remaining. Within the crowded postgame dressing room, there have been tears and deep, gasping exhales and heads buried in arms.

“Extraordinarily painful,” defensive finish Sam Hubbard stated.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 29: Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai (58) shoves Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) out of bounds during the last moments of the game on January 29th, 2023 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Bengals defensive finish Joseph Ossai (58) shoves Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes out of bounds over the last moments of the AFC title recreation, a play that may be flagged for pointless roughness. (Picture by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire through Getty Photos)

Nowhere was that ache greater than with Ossai, the second-year defensive finish. With eight seconds remaining, Mahomes broke freed from the pocket and scrambled to the appropriate towards a primary down. Ossai pursued, attempting to trace down one of many NFL’s most elusive gamers

As Mahomes handed the sticks, he headed towards the sideline in an effort to cease the clock. Simply as he stepped out of bounds, Ossai got here in and pushed him together with his proper arm, sending each of them sprawling. It was a textbook pointless roughness. A number of flags flew.

The additional 15 yards despatched Kansas Metropolis from the Cincinnati 42 to the 27. As an alternative of needing both a Hail Mary or unlikely 60-yard subject purpose to win the sport, the Chiefs despatched Harrison Butker out to ship them to the Tremendous Bowl with a 45-yarder. He made it.

The late hit was the ultimate, deciding play of the sport. Ossai knew it instantly, winding up on the bench in tears. He knew the reactions that had been coming.

“It’s a must to be extra conscious,” they shouted on the Bengals radio broadcast. “Why the [expletive] would you contact the quarterback?” cameras caught teammate Germaine Pratt yelling as he walked into the locker room. Social media was, effectively, social media, vitriol sprinkled with occasional messages of sympathy.

Within the locker room, teammates had hugged him. They tried to carry him up. They patted his again and informed him that it was only one play in a recreation of many, that it was a hustle mistake, not some signal of something greater than “enjoying his coronary heart out,” as Hubbard put it. Head coach Zac Taylor got here and embraced him and let him cry into his shoulder.

For Ossai, the assist meant the world, however he additionally nonetheless thought he had let the Bengals’ world down.

“I’ve to be higher,” Ossai stated.

It is a second of individualized sporting trauma, a nightmare, one thing that’s far simpler to say needs to be minimized than truly minimized. Perspective was laborious to seek out.

Ossai was born in Nigeria and moved together with his household to Conroe, Texas, about 40 miles north of Houston, at age 10. The transition was laborious. The household of seven lived in a one-bedroom condo and his accent made him straightforward prey for bullies in school.

His solace grew to become soccer. He would develop to 6-3, 263 kilos and develop into a star. He went on to play on the College of Texas, was named All-American and acquired drafted within the third spherical by the Bengals. He has pace, energy and a relentless motor.

But now he had made the largest of errors within the largest of video games. There is no such thing as a good playbook for this. All he might do is hope for compassion and understanding.

“I used to be simply in full chase-mode,” Ossai defined. “And attempting to push [Mahomes] to perhaps get him go backwards [out of bounds] and get that clock operating … I’ve acquired to know to not get near that quarterback when he will get near that sideline.”

Hill stood and listened to every query and every reply. He lower off two queries that he deemed “dumb” or maybe unfairly accusatory.

“Ask a greater query, bro,” Hill snapped.

The media gaggle carried on. This was one teammate, actually standing up for one more teammate, shoulder to shoulder, aspect by aspect, query for query. Within the darkest of moments, this was spectacular.

Everybody is aware of that this stuff can linger, hang-out and drag down reputations and careers. On this case, in these first minutes, Hill was going to do every thing he might to be sure that wasn’t the case.

When soccer groups discuss being a household, effectively, that is being a household.

“It didn’t come right down to that play,” Hill stated. “I’m not going to place up with no dumb questions that make it look like it was all his fault. It takes greater than him. It takes a whole crew.

“That’s my brother,” Hill continued. “I’ve been in that scenario earlier than, too. I had an opportunity to make a game-winning sack [against Dallas]. I simply missed a sack. I’ve been there. Attempting responsible it on one particular person, I’m not going to have that.

“The best way he performs his butt off every play,” Hill defined, “that’s how he practices and that’s how he performs. I’ve no drawback with that play as a result of I do know what his intentions [were].”

These sentiments had been echoed throughout the locker room. Not less than publicly. Help. Brotherhood. Sympathy. This loss was painful. So near victory. So near the Tremendous Bowl. But that’s soccer. Just one crew is joyful on the finish. One million issues result in it.

“It’s a blessing,” Ossai stated of the outpouring by Hill and others. “I am sorry issues didn’t go our approach.”

It might not be sufficient for some followers and even some teammates or maybe for Joseph Ossai to actually put this behind him. Time will inform. Time will, hopefully, heal.

It was sufficient for now although, a stand-up man going through as much as the worst mistake he ever made on the sphere within the largest recreation he’d ever play. And a teammate standing with him in Bengals solidarity, saying as a lot about this crew as any victory ever had.

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