For the first time since the 1988 season, the Bengals are heading to the AFC Championship Game. Cincinnati snapped the NFL’s longest conference title game drought on the leg of rookie kicker Evan McPherson, who booted a 52-yard field goal as time expired in the club’s 19-16 divisional round victory against the Tennessee Titans. While making that type of high-pressure kick from that distance and on the road is impressive in its own right, McPherson added a bit more flare to that legendary moment.
After the win, quarterback Joe Burrow told reporters that McPherson did a couple of warm-up kicks before going out for the game-winner. Following those practice swings, he told backup quarterback Brandon Allen: “Well, looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship Game.” Lo and behold, he trotted onto the field and has Cincinnati knocking on the door of a Super Bowl appearance.
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Not only did McPherson, a fifth-round draft choice of the Bengals last spring from University of Florida, kick his team to the AFC title game, he also made some NFL history in the process.
The 22-year-old is the first player in league history to make four or more field goals in multiple games in a single postseason. Against the Raiders on Super Wild Card Weekend, McPherson netted all four of his attempts with a long of 43 yards. In the win over Tennessee, he converted his four attempts headlined, of course, by that 52-yard game-winner.
“We knew exactly what we had [in McPherson] as soon as he walked into the building in camp,” said Burrow. “We just saw how he carried himself. … Obviously, everyone at this level can kick through the uprights. But it’s how you handle yourself in the locker room that shows us that you have the confidence to go out there and make a kick like this and perform the way he did in a game like this.”
From here, the Bengals will await the winner of the Bills-Chiefs showdown that is set for Sunday and whoever comes out on top of that game will host Cincinnati next Sunday. While playing on the road is a tough task, the Bengals do seem to have an ace up their sleeve in McPherson, who has converted all 18 of his field goals on the road this season (including playoffs).