Dee Ford and the Chiefs got a hard reminder Sunday that football is a game of inches.
With Kansas City leading 28-24 with 54 seconds left and a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, Ford lined up against the Patriots’ offense as it faced a third-and-10. Quarterback Tom Brady’s pass glanced off the hands of tight end Rob Gronkowski and into those of Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward for what should have been a game-sealing interception.
Except the yellow penalty flags flew, signaling Ford’s neutral-zone infraction that gave New England’s drive life. It led to a touchdown and a 31-28 lead in the AFC Championship game the Patriots would go on to win in overtime.
“… They said I was in the neutral zone,” Ford told reporters of the costly penalty. “I’ve got to see the ball. I’ve got to see the ball. Especially at that time in that game and what was at stake, I’ve got to see that ball.”
Different camera angles of Ford’s penalty offered non-definitive views, which Kansas City players and coaches will be left to mull in the wake of the defeat.
“[Ford is] one of the quickest outside linebackers in the National Football League and they call him offsides,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “So I’ll take a peek at that, see what it looks like. We gave ourselves opportunities to finish the game.”
Reid was hesitant to blame one player for an outcome that denies him a chance to finally win a Super Bowl, though the emotional roller-coaster of the last-minute play seemed to weigh on Ford, who will be looking for a new contract this offseason.
“Yeah, it was very up and down,” Ford said. “We’ve got to be better. Me especially on that play, we’ve got to be better in these games. Every play counts.
“We’re definitely stunned. We feel like we should have come out with the dub, especially being here in Arrowhead, the history, the moment. We definitely wanted to bring it back, so it stings.”