Dee Ford's brutal offsides penalty overturned INT and will go down in sad Chiefs lore

If Dee Ford didn’t line up offsides, the Kansas City Chiefs would be in Super Bowl LIII. That’s a tough way for a season to end.

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.

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scrambles away from Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Dec 2, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs for a first down during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 2: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady runs for five yards for a first quarter first down that gave him 1000 career rushing yards. The Vikings Mackensie Alexander (20) pursues him in the backround. The New England Patriots hosted the Minnesota Vikings in a regular season NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Boston on Dec. 02, 2018. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs for a first down against the Minnesota Vikings during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Dec 2, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs for a first down as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander (20) pursues during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 02: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after rushing for five yards in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings to reach 1,000 career rushing yards at Gillette Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) signals first down after his run against the Minnesota Vikings during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Dec 2, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after rushing for a first down during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

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.

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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