For the third time this season, rookie Evan McPherson made a field goal for Cincinnati on the game’s final play, and this time, the three-pointer clinched the AFC North title for the Bengals.
Cincinnati hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2015, but Sunday’s 34-31 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs locked up a spot in the coming postseason, and as a division winner, the Bengals will play at home in the first round.
Riding an eight-game winning streak and trying to hold on to the No. 1 seed for the AFC playoffs, Kansas City had tied the game on Harrison Butker’s 34-yard field goal with 6:01 to play. The Chiefs never got the football again.
McPherson capped Cincinnati’s 15-play, 74-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal as time expired.
The Bengals snapped the ball on fourth-and-goal at the Kansas City 1-yard line twice in the final minute, had two incomplete passes and still won the game. The first play was nullified by offsetting penalties. On the second, an illegal-use-of-hands penalty against the Chiefs gave Cincinnati a first down at the Kansas City 1 with 46 seconds to play.
After a kneel-down and a spike ran all but the final two seconds off the clock, McPherson kicked a 20-yard field goal to break the tie.
In his first NFL game, the former Fort Payne High School standout, McPherson made a 34-yard field goal in overtime to give Cincinnati a 27-24 victory against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 12.
On Sept. 30, McPherson made a 35-yard field goal as time ran out in the Bengals’ 24-21 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
On Sunday, McPherson made a 46-yard field goal to cut Kansas City’s lead to 28-17 with 41 seconds left in the first half, and he also connected on four extra points.
McPherson was among the 42 players from Alabama high schools and colleges (excluding Alabama and Auburn) who got on the field on the 17th Sunday of the NFL’s 102nd season.
Special teams honor:
McPherson was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for December, the NFL announced last Thursday.
A 2017 All-State selection at Fort Payne High School, McPherson tied for the most points among AFC kickers during December with 35 in Cincinnati’s four games as he made 9-of-11 field-goal attempts.
In the Bengals’ 15-10 victory against the Denver Broncos on Dec. 19, McPherson made the longest field goal in franchise history with a 58-yarder. He also kicked a 53-yard field goal against Denver.
McPherson leads the NFL in 50-yard field goals this season with nine, one short of the league rookie record established by the Minnesota Vikings’ Blair Walsh in 2012.
McPherson had made more field goals of 50 or more yards this season than any other Cincinnati kicker had in his career with the Bengals. In 2021, McPherson has produced two of the four games in which a Cincinnati player has made at least two 50-yard field goals.