On the final snap from scrimmage in Sunday night's thrilling AFC Championship Game, Patrick Mahomes scrambled on third-and-4, dashing to the sideline to pick up the first down with eight seconds remaining. Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai pursued the quarterback, hustling to the boundary.
Despite his effort, Ossai arrived late, hitting Mahomes out of bounds before both careened into the bench. The Bengals were flagged for a 15-yard penalty that allowed Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker to boot a 45-yard game-winning field goal to send Kansas City to the Super Bowl.
Ossai was distraught on the bench, feeling like he had let his team down. But no one in the Cincinnati locker room blamed the loss on the hustling lineman.
"There were a lot of plays other than that that could have turned the tide in that game and won us that game. So that's not the only one," star quarterback Joe Burrow said.
Before the penalty, Ossai had a good game, generating five tackles, one tackle for loss, two QB hits, one pass defended, three QB pressures and a run stuff.
"We're not going to make it about one play." Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said of Ossai's late-hit penalty. "He loves ball. He loves being part of this team."
Still fighting back emotions in the locker room, Ossai said his teammates are lifting him up.
"It means the world to me," he said. "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."
It's a brutal way for Ossai and the Bengals to see their championship hopes come to an end.
"Oh, it aches, trust me, to be this close to … Our goal is to win the Super Bowl, so to be seconds away from getting back there and watching them celebrate, it's horrible," Taylor said. "Because this team has invested so much in each other to get to this point, and you know we've been playing playoff football since Halloween, we just didn't know it."