The Chiefs seemed to have an interception that would send them to the Super Bowl for the first time in 49 years. With 1:01 left in regulation, and the Chiefs up 28-24, a pass went off Rob Gronkowski’s hands and Chiefs defensive back Charvarius Ward intercepted it. With less than a minute to go and the Chiefs leading, that would have sealed a win and an AFC championship. The Chiefs’ last Super Bowl was all the way back in Super Bowl IV.
But there was a flag. Ford, the Chiefs’ Pro Bowl pass rusher who had 13 sacks in the regular season, had lined up offsides. He was to Tom Brady‘s left, and Brady’s pass went to the right. Ford’s penalty didn’t affect the play, but he was in the neutral zone. Instead of the game being over, the Patriots had another chance.
On the next play, Brady hit Gronkowski for 25 yards. That set up a touchdown, and eventually the Patriots won in overtime.
The Chiefs had plenty of other chances to put the game away. But Ford lining up in the neutral zone will sting for a long time.
Dee Ford on the encroachment penalty that negated what would have been a clinching INT: “They said I was in the neutral zone. I gotta see the ball. I gotta see the ball, especially at that time of the game and what’s at stake. I have to see the ball.” #ChiefsKingdom #LetsRoll pic.twitter.com/NhCzQlYRFy
— KMBC (@kmbc) January 21, 2019
Chiefs fans don’t forget. Many will still complain about Lin Elliott’s missed field goals against the Colts in a playoff game more than 20 years ago. Ford is a heck of a player but his penalty will be remembered for a long time.
It will be a long next few days for Dee Ford knowing that all he had to do was line up onside and his team would be going to the Super Bowl.
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) January 21, 2019
Had Ford not been offsides, the reaction to Sunday’s game would have been much different. Ward, an undrafted rookie, would have been an unlikely hero in Kansas City. Chiefs coach Andy Reid would have had a shot at a Super Bowl ring that could change his legacy. The ball going off Gronkowski’s hands would have been held up as a glaring example that he was near the end, his “Willie Mays falling down in the outfield” moment. Instead, Gronkowski had two enormous catches after that to help send the Patriots to the Super Bowl. Similarly, we wouldn’t be talking about Brady’s amazing clutch plays had Ford not been penalized. We’d be talking about him throwing three interceptions in an AFC championship game loss.
Ford’s explanation for why he lined up in the neutral zone won’t satisfy many people.
“They said I was in the neutral zone. I’ve got to see the ball. I’ve got to see the ball,” Ford said at his locker afterward, via KMBC. “Especially the time of that game and what was at stake, I’ve got to see the ball.”
Ford is an unrestricted free agent. The Chiefs won’t make a decision on whether to re-sign him or not based on one mistake. But if Ford returns, it will be tough for a lot of people to forget his mistake that could have changed history.
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