KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Evan McPherson kept to himself as he jogged onto the field in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium, saying nothing to his Cincinnati Bengals teammates.
The 22-year-old rookie kicker didn’t need to. They all knew what he was thinking with the season on the line.
“It was going through my head,” McPherson said, “that there was a good chance we were going to the Super Bowl.”
And that’s exactly where they’re heading.
McPherson kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Bengals to the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years with a 27-24 victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game.
“It’s just so surreal that this game came down to a field goal,” McPherson said.
Then again, it might have been absolutely fitting.
After all, McPherson is a major reason the Bengals are here. He’s 12 for 12 on his postseason field goal tries, three makes from breaking Adam Vinatieri’s NFL record for one postseason. He’ll get that chance on Feb. 13 in Inglewood, Calif, when the Bengals take on the NFC champion Rams at SoFi Stadium.
“That’s definitely something we’re going to shoot for,” McPherson said. “I mean, we’ll see how it goes. I’d like to score a lot of touchdowns in the Super Bowl. But however we can get points in the Super Bowl, we’ll do.”
And he’s giving his coaches, teammates and fans all the confidence he’ll make any kick that comes his way.
From any distance. On any field.
“He has ice in his veins,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said last week.
McPherson helped the Bengals erase an 18-point deficit — tying an AFC title game record for largest comeback — to take a late 24-21 lead on his 52-yard field goal.
Last week against Tennessee, his 52-yarder as time ran out — his fourth of the game — gave Cincinnati a 19-16 victory.
It has all made McPherson a bit of a sudden celebrity with nicknames such as “Shooter” and “Money Mac” bestowed on him as he keeps making clutch field goals and the Bengals keep winning — and erasing the old “Bungles” moniker that had been stuck to the franchise for more than three decades.
“This whole week’s been awesome,” McPherson said. “It’s been, you know, surreal just all the attention me and the team have gotten. It’s been coming this whole year. I think we’ve kind of pushed that underdog narrative to the side, showing everybody that the Bengals are here to stay.
“We mean business, and whoever you put out there on the field against us we’re going to compete and do the best we can.”
That includes McPherson, whose journey to the Super Bowl spotlight began on the high school football fields of Alabama, where he became the country’s top prep kicker. In 2018, he made a then-state record 60-yarder that caught the attention of college scouts — and put him on the radar of NFL teams.
He went to the University of Florida and made 51 of his 60 field goal attempts, including 5 of 8 from 50 yards or longer. McPherson also connected on all but one of his 150 extra points.
He opted to make himself eligible for the NFL draft after his junior season, and the Bengals raised many eyebrows when they selected him in the fifth round last April.
He was the only kicker drafted.
And now he’s booting the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
“I think a lot of people probably wrote us off at halftime, but we were a confident bunch of guys and we knew that there was no way we were going out like this,” McPherson said. “We knew 100% we were going to come back and give them a run for their money.”
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