Dee Ford’s penalty shook up Super Bowl teams’ offseason
MIAMI — Dee Ford has a chance to ruin the Chiefs’ season for the second year in a row.
This season, he plays for the 49ers. Last season, he played for the Chiefs, who lost in the AFC championship game against the Patriots. Lost because of Ford.
With 1:01 left in that game, Ford lined up in the neutral zone — a five-yard penalty which negated an interception that almost certainly would have won the game for the Chiefs and sent them to the Super Bowl — they had a three-point lead at the time. Instead, they lost when the Patriots scored a touchdown a few plays later.
Monday evening during the opening night of the Super Bowl festivities, Ford reflected on the lowest moment of his career.
“It was hard for a brief period of time,” Ford admitted. “But just like everything else, I had to get over that. Now it’s in a compartment with other bad plays. I got over it.”
The Chiefs never completely got over Ford’s mistake, though. This year, just two days before they beat the Titans in the AFC Championship, Ford’s replacement on the Chiefs, Frank Clark, unloaded about Ford’s penalty.
“That’s a mental mistake,” Clark said. “The ball is right there. You put your hand behind the ball and you’re onside. That’s why I haven’t lined up offsides all season, probably all my career. If I jump offsides, that happens. That’s called battle wounds. It’s OK to jump offsides from time to time as a defensive end. But lining up offsides, it’s inexcusable.”
On Monday night, a reporter asked Ford if Clark’s comments bothered him.
“He’s right,” Ford said, shaking his head. “It’s inexcusable.”
Ford seemed like he was confessing his sins.
The Chiefs never absolved Ford, who was coming off the best season of his career — he had 13 sacks. Despite his terrific numbers, they didn’t offer him a long-term contract extension. They gave him the franchise tag — just a one-year deal — then immediately traded him to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick in 2020.
The Chiefs sold low.
Shortly after dealing Ford, they traded a first-rounder in 2019 and a second-rounder in 2020 to the Seahawks for Clark, then gave him a five-year, $104 million extension. They bought high. That’s how badly the Chiefs wanted to replace Ford. Had he merely lined up onside against the Patriots, he might still be on the Chiefs, and Clark might still be with the Seahawks.
One play changed both of their lives.
“If he didn’t line up in the neutral zone, they would have gone to the Super Bowl and probably won it,” Clark said. “That’s why life is how it is. You never know what you’re going to get out of it.”
Both the Chiefs and 49ers are thrilled with how things turned out. Clark recorded eight sacks this season. Ford recorded just 6.5 sacks, but arguably was the most important player on the 49ers defense.
When Ford is on the field, the 49ers’ sack rate is 16.2 percent, meaning they sack the quarterback roughly once every six times he drops back. Amazing. When Ford is NOT on the field, the 49ers’ sack rate plummets to 5.4 percent, meaning they sack the quarterback roughly once every 19 times he drops back. Amazing.