Joseph Ossai's sack of Patrick Mahomes was one of the key plays in the Bengals' 27-24 win over the Chiefs back in Week 13. The play was one of several significant ones throughout the season for Ossai, a second-year linebacker whose entire rookie season was wiped out by a knee injury sustained in the preseason.
Unfortunately for Ossai, his most consequential play of the 2022 season was one he'd rather forget. It came on his late shove of Mahomes in the waning seconds of the AFC title game that allowed the Chiefs to get in position to kick the game-winning field goal. Inconsolable on the bench after the game, Ossai eventually made his way into the Bengals locker room, where he received considerable support from his equally crestfallen teammates.
"Means the world to me," Ossai said of his teammates' support, via NFL Media. "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."
It's heartbreaking to see Joseph Ossai break down following the Bengals loss— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 30, 2023
But it's heartwarming to see his team lift him back up pic.twitter.com/4BszT5Qzdq
When asked about the play after the game, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said that one play did not determine the outcome. Taylor was right. The Bengals' injured offensive line, which wilted late after somewhat holding its own during the middle portions of the game, was the biggest reason why the Bengals came up just short of successfully defending their AFC title. Suspect officiating and Mahomes' wizardry while dealing with his ankle injury also contributed to the Chiefs finally beating the Bengals while exercising the demons of last year's AFC title game loss to Cincinnati.
Bengals defensive tackle B.J. Novak stood guard as reporters asked Ossai questions.
One thing about me I’ll always have my brothas back! People asking stupid ass question got to do better! https://t.co/Oxcpryg4VP— BJ Hill (@BJHill5) January 30, 2023
When the pain of Sunday's loss begins to subside, Ossai and the Bengals will surely take something positive out of what they were able to achieve during the 2022 season. While the season did not end with a return trip to the Super Bowl, the Bengals were able to win back-to-back AFC North titles for the first time in franchise history. They then defeated the Ravens and Bills in the playoffs while reinforcing their position as one of the NFL's premier teams.
"We'll come back, have a great offseason, get better as team, get better individually, and get back next year ready to go," Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said after the loss, via CLNS Media. "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."