For the first time since January 8, 1989, the Cincinnati Bengals are going to the AFC Championship game! With a last-second field goal, Evan McPherson has already cemented his position in Bengals history. On the weekend, McPherson was the first of three last-second game-winning field goals. His perfect four-for-four outing against the Titans was the difference and it’s why Evan McPherson is the Bengals MVP of this season (of players not named Joe Burrow).
Evan McPherson: From Fifth-Round “Reach” to Cincinnati Hero
Consistency is Key
On the season, including two playoff games, McPherson made 87.8% of his kicks. 36 made fields goals out of 40 attempts isn’t too shabby, considering he’s 8/8 in the playoffs. Considering where the Bengals were last year where their kicker suffered a gruesome double calf cramp after a shanked potential game-winning attempt, McPherson is a breath of fresh air.
Early on in the year, McPherson earned his place on the team with the game-winner against the Vikings in Week 1. He subsequently made each of his first five attempts. Then, he missed three in a row between the Jaguars game and the Packers game. This stretch was the only time in the entire season where he missed back-to-back kicks. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, those missed kicks against the Packers were the difference, he was just bailed out because Mason Crosby also struggled on that day.
Since that missed 57-yarder in Week 5, McPherson is a very cool 31/33 and he’s made each of his last 12 attempts.
One critique of Head Coach Zac Taylor and his playcalling is that he tends to get conservative the closer he gets to the endzone. As annoying as it is that he’s willing to settle for three as compared to going for seven, McPherson is a massive reason why. On kicks 45 yards or less, McPherson is 22/23. That one miss was a 43-yarder against Jacksonville. If the offense is close enough that they can read CINCINNATI or BENGALS in the endzone, McPherson is money.
Even on attempts over 50 yards, McPherson is proven that he’s a weapon. He’s 11/13 on field goals over 50 yards, with the longest a whopping 58 yards.
Ice In His Veins
The key to being an elite kicker in the NFL is whether or not you have the clutch gene. Inside two minutes is where NFL players make their money. He’s 8/8 within the final two minutes of the first half. Of those eight kicks, the Bengals increased their lead twice, cut into a deficit three times, and took the lead three times. Something that the Bengals have been significantly better this year than last is winning the “middle eight.” Of Couse, that is to say, they do well going into as well as coming back from halftime. In 2020, Cincinnati was legitimately pathetic in this window.
Within the final two minutes of the game and in overtime, McPherson has been earning his spot. He’s 6/8 thus far. Those two misses: a 57-yarder with 26 seconds against Green Bay and a 49-yarder in overtime…also against Green Bay.
On the year, McPherson directly won four games with his kicks against the Vikings (34 yards, five seconds to go in overtime), Jaguars (35 yards, four seconds to go in regulation), Chiefs (20 yards, two seconds), and Titans (52 yards, four seconds). He made a go-ahead 41-yard field goal against the 49ers, but the Bengals defense let them down.
Down the stretch, McPherson was a massive reason why the Bengals beat the Broncos and Raiders (playoffs). Against Denver, McPherson made all three field goals he attempted and was the difference in a 15-10 win. Against Las Vegas on Wild Card Weekend, he was 4/4 in a 26-19 win.
The legend of McPherson grows with the knowledge that before his game-winner, McPherson took a practice swing, looked at back-up quarterback Brandon Allen, and said, “well, looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship!”
— Andre Johnson, Jr. (@Andre247Now) January 23, 2022
No Nicknames, Just “Evan McPherson”
They call him “Shooter”, “Money Mac”, and even “Mc-Fearless”. but Evan McPherson is cool with just being called “Evan.”
Regardless of what he’s called, there’s one thing that he is: elite. Already, at 22-years-old, McPherson looks like one of the best kickers in the NFL and has a leg that can rival that of Justin Tucker. The upgrade from Randy Bullock to McPherson cannot be understated. Cincinnati has an elite young core and McPherson isn’t going anywhere.
If the AFC Championship Game comes down to the wire as the Week 17 matchup did, count on McPherson to send the Bengals to Super Bowl LVI.
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