The Cincinnati Bengals were the only team to draft a kicker in 2021. And now, an entire generation of fans will remember the overlooked fifth-round pick as their playoff hero who helped push the championship-starved organization to even greater heights.
With a trip to the AFC title game on the line, and the Bengals' season hanging in the balance, Evan McPherson was simply unfazed by crunchtime pressure. The rookie drilled a walk-off, 52-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the team to a 19-16 win over the top-seeded Tennessee Titans on Saturday afternoon at Nissan Stadium. McPherson's clutch kick snapped the league's longest active road playoff skid, and clinched Cincinnati's first AFC title game in 33 years.
"I think our locker room is probably the most confident group of guys that this organization has ever had," McPherson told The Zach Gelb Show on Monday. "We've got a great leader in Joe Burrow, tremendous weapons on both sides of the ball. I don't think you can ask for three better receivers than Tyler Boyd, Ja'Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins... With the weapons we have, the leadership, the confidence, this team's really got a good chance of making it all the way.
"If people are betting against the Bengals, they don't really know us. They're not true fans, they haven't been watching us all year. Because we're a team that's going to find a way to win -- no matter if it's going to be 3-0 or 45-44... This team is so resilient and confident, whoever you throw out there against us, we're going to put a good gameplan together, give them our best shot. And I think our best shot is as good as anyone's in the league right now."
Cincinnati's defense picked off Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times, which helped set up two of McPherson's four field goals. The most important one came with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and after Burrow connected with Chase on a 19-yard pass, McPherson was sent out to break the 16-16 tie. The game-winning kick was his 11th from 50 yards or longer this season, and according to NFL Research, he became the first kicker in history with at least four field goals in multiple games in a single postseason.
McPherson's special moment wouldn't have been made possible without the resiliency from his quarterback. Despite being sacked a whopping nine times, Burrow still managed to throw for 348 yards and become the first signal-caller taken No. 1 overall to win a divisional-round game within his first two seasons. Chase also showcased his superstar talent, racking up 109 receiving yards on five crucial catches.
Cincinnati will visit the reigning AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon, with kickoff scheduled for 3 p.m. ET. According to FiveThirtyEight projections, the Bengals currently have just a 19-percent chance to advance to Super Bowl 56 and a 7-percent chance to win their first Lombardi Trophy.
The entire conversation between McPherson and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.