LOS ANGELES — There is no lack of confidence with the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Joe Burrow returned from an ACL injury and mostly picked up where he left off in 2020, being the steadying force behind center that the Bengals have spent years trying to find. There’s JaMarr Chase, who is basically the same explosive player in the NFL that he was at LSU in 2019 after not playing football for a year. And of course there’s Eli Apple a defensive back who has no problem going after the game’s best wide receivers on the field and on social media.
However, the most confident player on the Bengals just might be kicker Evan McPherson. He had the rare honor bestowed upon him of being a kicker that gets selected in the NFL Draft — the Bengals took him with the fifth pick in the fifth round of the 2021 draft. McPherson was the only kicker selected in the most recent NFL draft and he has not disappointed.
The rookie has been a perfect 12-12 in the playoffs, two of which were walk-offs. There was the 31-yarder to send the Bengals to the Super Bowl in their 27-24 AFC Championship victory against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the monster was against the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round.
It may feel like that kick happened in Jan. 2021 instead of Jan. 2022, because it was the opening act of the best divisional playoff round of all time, and since that round the news of Tom Brady’s retirement has broken twice and then Brian Flores knocked that news back about six pages in the sports section with the filing of lawsuit against the NFL.
As easy as it is to forget what McPherson did, that 52-yarder at Nissan Stadium was one of the biggest plays of the postseason. After the game, Burrow told the media that the rookie kicker, who later confirmed the story on NFL Countdown, said before going out to the field, “Looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship Game.”
McPherson’s teammates told stories about his confidence during the Bengals’ media availability this morning. The always descriptive C.J. Uzomah compared him to a seven-year-old that’s better than all of the older kids, knows it, and torments them with that fact. McPherson also has a bit of Steph Curry in him. Chase said that he sees McPherson turn his back in practice and sometimes in games before the ball even goes through the uprights — unfortunately, when McPherson did that against the Packers he found out mid-celebration that he missed the kick.
If it were not for McPherson’s never-wavering confidence and his golden foot, the Bengals would likely not be packing their bags to leave the snowy Midwest for sunny Southern California. During his media availability, he gave some pointers on how to “Be like Evan,” and be able to declare a 52-yard field goal made, outdoors in the winter, before even stepping onto the field.
“If you ever get the chance to line up, and kick a ball in front of 60 some thousand people,” McPherson said. “The only thing I would say is, focus on what you have to do, and really think that nothing else around you or outside you really matters.”
It’s safe to assume that advice was aimed towards other young soccer players who will eventually become place kickers, and not the reporters communicating with him via a Zoom link, but it was an interesting look at the thought process that went into the two biggest kicks of his life in opposing stadiums. At 22 years old, he is able to quiet his mind, follow the same steps that he has been taking for years, and send a franchise to the Super Bowl that hadn’t won a playoff game since they defeated Warren Moon and the Houston Oilers, nine years before he was born.
If the kicker is that confident, then the entire team is not afraid of Patrick Mahomes, Cooper Kupp, or anything in the way of the Lombardi Trophy.