Cincinnati Bengals dealing with harsh reality of loss to Chiefs
The Cincinnati Bengals lost 23-20 in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday night. Now, they’re dealing with the aftermath of the defeat.
What happened? That had to be the overwhelming thought on the mind of Cincinnati Bengals players walking off the field at Arrowhead — or is it Burrowhead? — Stadium on Sunday night.
Tied 20-20 in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati’s defense twice handed quarterback Joe Burrow the ball with a chance to win. Twice, he was stonewalled before getting a drive going.
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On the game’s final penultimate snap from scrimmage, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes scrambled, bad right ankle and all, to pick up a first down at the Cincinnati 42-yard line with eight seconds remaining.
Then, a football tragedy for the Queen City.
Rookie edge rusher Joseph Ossai hit Mahomes out of bounds, triggering a 15-yard personal foul penalty. The marker put Kansas City in field goal range, allowing kicker Harrison Butker to drill a 45-yard, game-winning field goal.
In the aftermath, star Cincinnati linebacker Germaine Pratt was caught on camera losing his cool, appearing to blame Ossai for the loss. However, on Monday, Pratt owned his actions, per NFL.com:
“I was emotional. I was in the moment, I would say I was wrong. As a man, you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I was wrong. I wasn’t a great teammate in that moment.’
“But that don’t define me as a man. It is what it is. It’s 24 hours. I’m going back to work. I’ve got a great offseason ahead with my kids and family. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. When I go home to my kids, they love me. When I go home to my fiancee, who loves me. That’s all that matters. All the other stuff is irrelevant. Back to work.”
For Pratt, a potential trip to free agency awaits. For most of the Bengals, there’s a question about whether the team can sustain its success long-term, understanding cap constraints are going to be a real concern in the upcoming seasons.
However, Cincinnati has the present. The Bengals will have cap space for the next few years. The coaching staff is elite. The quarterback is terrific. Nothing should stop Cincinnati from getting back to the playoffs and being a problem both in 2023 and beyond.
Yet none of that will erase the pain of Sunday night. And nothing will stop many in and outside the building to keep wondering “what if” after such a wonderful season came to such an abrupt end.