Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson’s 48-yard game-winning field goal in overtime Monday was his first walk-off kick since doing it in back-to-back weeks in the 2021 Divisional Round and AFC Championship Game.
But this time he didn’t call his shot.
Someone else did.
“I went to (director of player relations) Eric Ball, and I said, ‘OK, here’s my sheet. I’m done calling defenses. He’s gonna make this kick,'” Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said. “E.B. and I laughed. When Evan goes out there, we know it’s gonna be good.
“Even when he doesn’t think it’s good,” Anarumo added with a laugh.
That last line was a jab at McPherson’s reaction to the first kick he made Monday night, a 54-yarder that gave the Bengals a 31-28 lead with 2:24 remaining in regulation. The ESPN cameras caught McPherson swinging his arm with a disgusted look on his face as the ball sailed through the uprights.
“The way it felt, it just jumped right, and I thought it was gonna keep going right because the wind was kind of pushing it that way, too,” McPherson said. “I saw the official raise his hands and I was confused. But I guess I’m living right. I can’t explain that one.”
Bengals’ Evan McPherson Leads NFL in 50+ Field Goal Attempts
Bengals tight end Drew Sample laughed when he saw the video and laughed at the juxtaposition of McPherson being disappointed and him running in from behind all fired up.
“I was wondering why he was celebrating,” Sample said. “I was like ‘He’s just ice cold, I guess.'”
— Mark Slaughter (@MarkVSlaughter) December 5, 2023
There is some truth to that last part. McPherson made an instant impact in his rookie year by not only setting the single-season franchise record for most 50+ field goals but also the career record. He always looked cool and calm, and his “I guess we’re going to the AFC Championship” comment before the game-winning kick in the playoff win at Tennessee is the stuff of legend.
He has admitted he actually had quite a bit of nerves throughout that season, but those completely faded in Year 3.
“On Monday night, I felt pretty calm going into that kick,” he said of the overtime game-winner. “I didn’t feel like it was any different than any other kick throughout the game. Being in those situations has helped prepare me for all of it right now. For whatever reason I felt pretty calm in that situation.”
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons feel calm in almost any situation involving McPherson. That’s why he leads the NFL in field goal attempts of at least 50 yards this season with 12. And his 28 attempts since entering the league are one shy of Brandon McManus’ 29.
“You see kickers around the league, who maybe come up short in big moments, but he’s been so consistent for us there,” Taylor said. “I know enough not to take him for granted. And we’ve put him in some tough positions. He’s kicking a lot of long field goals this year. It hasn’t always been chip-shot field goals.”
McManus holds the NFL record for most 50+ attempts in a season with 15 in 2020. McPherson only needs three more in the next five games to tie that mark.
“If that’s what it calls for, that’s what it calls for,” Simmons said. “He was really accurate over 50 as a rookie. He hasn’t quite been the same this year, but understand he’s got a second-year snapper, a new holder that we’re still trying to get perfected. I was just glad to see him hit the ones he hit the other night. He just has to come through on every single kick that he can make. We’re just at that spot as a team, he has to make every one of them.”
McPherson is seven of 12 on 50+ attempts this year. One of those misses was Monday night when his 57-yarder in the first quarter hit the crossbar.
“I caught it off my toe a little bit, which shot it straight up,” McPherson said. “That was a first. I’ve hit uprights, but never a crossbar. I’ve never been short.
“Obviously I need to do a couple more squats,” he joked.
McPherson is no stranger to kicking at EverBank Stadium. At the University of Florida, he played there every season against Georgia in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, going five of six on his attempts with makes from 51 and 50.
While McPherson is seven of 12 from 50 and beyond this year, he is 12 of 12 inside of 50, living up to his “Money Mac” moniker.
He was 19 of 22 from inside 50 as a rookie, and 18 of 23 last year.
But McPherson doesn’t put his kicks in separate buckets that way. He owns the two longest field goals in franchise history with a 59-yarder in the 2022 opener against Pittsburgh and a 58-yarder right before halftime at Denver in 2021.
He’s also tied with Randy Bullock for the third-longest with a 57-yarder last year in primetime against Miami. And he added a 56-yard this year at San Francisco.
“I just kind of go out there knowing that the coaches are gonna put me out there for something they believe I can make,” McPherson said. “That’s kind of the way I approach it. If the ball is on our side of the field, I should make the kick.”
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