The Bengals and Zac Taylor knew they didn’t need to get too close to be in Evan McPherson’s field goal range.
After intercepting Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter, they needed only one play to get from their 47 to the Titans 34: a 19-yard pass from Joe Burrow to Ja ‘Marr Chase. Cincinnati then rushed twice to get the clock down before taking a timeout to set up McPherson for the game-winning goal.
As he has been all season, McPherson was on the money, practicing the game-winning 52-yard kickoff to beat the Titans 19-16 and advance Cincinnati to the AFC championship game.
“I was talking to [backup quarterback Brandon Allen] while he was out kicking. He did a little warm-up swing and said, ‘Ah, looks like we’re going to the AFC championship,’ right before he came out and kicked it,” Burrow said after the game.
MORE: Evan McPherson FG after late INT sends Cincinnati to AFC title game
Taylor said the team felt like they just needed to get to the Titans’ 40-yard line, meaning they had confidence in their rookie kicker from at least 58 yards.
“Ice in his veins. Not much to say. He’s as cool as he looks,” Taylor said. “You have the confidence that he’s going to make it every time he gets up there. He definitely could have gone from farther than he kicked it. We feel confidence, really, beyond the 40-yard line there. So he just steps into the front. The moment is never too big for him. We’re happy to have him.”
When was Evan McPherson selected?
Kickers are not usually drafted. Many NFL kickers have been undrafted free agents before making their mark on the league.
Cincinnati felt confident enough in McPherson’s ability to use one of their 2021 NFL Draft picks on him. He was selected in the fifth round, 149th overall, making him the 66th-highest kicker selected in NFL history. according to Stathead. He was the only kicker selected in 2021 and the 233rd kicker selected overall in NFL history.
“He came in and we knew exactly what we had in camp,” Burrow told Evan Washburn of CBS Sports. “You can see what a kicker is like when he walks into the building and how he walks inside the building and how he walks and how he talks to people. That guy is amazing.”
NFL PLAYOFF SUPPORT: Full schedule, TV channels, scores for AFC and NFC games
McPherson did a lot in college to deserve a draft pick. In three years at Florida, he made 149 of 150 extra point attempts and 51 of 60 field goal attempts. He set the SEC record with a career field goal percentage of .850.
Even before college, he was a standout. He was a three-star recruit on the 247Sports Composite Rankings, ranking as high as #1486 nationally and as the #1 kicker in the class of 2018.
Evan McPherson’s regular season success
McPherson walked straight onto the field and showed he would make a difference with his leg.
In his first game, he kicked a 34-yard field goal in overtime to beat the Vikings. Three weeks later, he walked out on the Jaguars in a “Thursday Night Football” matchup.
Neither kick finished the regular season as the greatest. In Week 17, McPherson drilled a 20-yard pass against the Chiefs as time expired to clinch Cincinnati’s first AFC North title since 2015.
McPherson finished the season with 46 of 48 PAT attempts and 28 of 33 shots from the field. He came within a 50-yard field goal of tying Blair Walsh’s NFL rookie record for field goals of more than 50 yards. McPherson made 9 of 11 attempts. His nine successful 50-plus kicks were the most among all NFL kickers in 2021.
MORE: Titans tie up Bengals after officials confirm Tennessee interception
Only four rookie kickers in NFL history have made four field goals in a single game, by Stathead. McPherson is now the only kicker to have done it twice, making him the only kicker – let alone a rookie – have two games in the same postseason with at least four kicks made.
McPherson drilled four field goals in a 26-19 wild-card win against the Raiders that advanced Cincinnati to the divisional round. He accounted for 12 of the Bengals’ 19 points on Saturday with four more against the Titans.
The last time a rookie kicker had four successful attempts and kicked a game-winning goal in the same game was when the Steelers’ Chris Boswell sent a 35-yard attempt through the posts against the Bengals in 2016 to stun Cincinnati and put an end to what was before. this season, it has been the team’s most recent trip to the playoffs.
IYER: Vrabel’s 4th quarter decisions cost the Titans
McPherson said after that game it’s “every kicker’s dream” for the game to come down to his leg.
“This is my job. This is what I do for a living. It’s my job to stay cool, calm and collected in times like these and I’m very happy that my team put me in the position to be successful and gave me the opportunity “. chance to win the game,” he said.
McPherson said if he feels he’s hit a kick well, he turns to punter Kevin Huber and doesn’t see the ball go by. McPherson said he knew he hit his 52-yarder well.
“We’ve seen that that’s a bad thing, but this time, it was a good thing. And I looked [Huber], he’s like, ‘You did it,'” McPherson said. “And pretty much everything that was going through my mind was we got one more game. We are guaranteed one more game. We have another chance to go out there and win another game and we’re one step closer to our goal.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.