CINCINNATI — Evan McPherson finds it helpful to think back on last year’s playoff run when he needs a confidence boost.
The Cincinnati Bengals kicker enjoyed a perfect postseason as a rookie, making all 14 of his field goal attempts and six PATs. Two of those field goals were game-winners, including a 52-yarder as time expired in the divisional round game at Tennessee and the other, a 31-yarder in overtime at Kansas City to send the Bengals to the Super Bowl.
This season has seen its share of ups and downs, but the Bengals could need their kicker to come through in clutch situations again as they embark on another potential deep playoff run. Cincinnati (12-4) hosts the Baltimore Ravens (10-7) in a Wild Card game on Sunday night at Paycor Stadium.
“In the times that I struggle this year, I think I revert back to those four games last year where I kind of put it all together and was hitting at my best,” McPherson said. “So, I have gone back and watched those (games) and just kind of pick some stuff up from it. Maybe it’s all mindset in how I approach the game, so I’m just kind of going into these games pretty confident knowing that, you know, I’ve done it all season, just go out there and execute.”
McPherson’s statistics this season aren’t much different from his 2021 regular season when he also missed five field goals, but the surprising thing is while he’s been perfect at 50yards or beyond, he’s missing the shorter attempts. He also has four missed PATs, compared to two last year.
The 2021 fifth-round draft pick also has no game-winning kicks this season. He had five total last year, including in the season opener, one in a Thursday night game against the Jaguars and one in the AFC North-clinching win over the Chiefs in Week 17. McPherson knows he’s capable of the same.
“I think it’s going to help me a lot just going into it with a certain amount of confidence knowing that every point matters, every kick matters and I gotta do everything in my power to help this team get to where we want to be,” McPherson said.
McPherson also has some extra motivation going into this particular matchup against Baltimore, where he will be competing against the best kicker in the league.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker leads the league in field goals made, converting on 37 of 43 attempts with a long of 58, and he is the all-time leader in career field goal percentage at 90.5 percent. Tucker also holds the record for longest field goal made at 66 yards, which he achieved last year.
“It just kind of heightens I guess my competitive spirit, just kind of whenever I play against him just because, you know, I want to be known as one of the top kickers whenever I’m finished,” McPherson said. “To do that you have to compete with the best so I enjoy playing against Justin a lot.”
McPherson has been watching Tucker since he was in high school back in Fort Payne, Alabama, and said he has learned a lot from the six-time Pro Bowl kicker. Although he is just in his second NFL season and Tucker in his 11th, the two have shared a similar path and McPherson is hopeful his career will continue to parallel Tucker’s.
Tucker helped the Ravens to a Super Bowl his rookie season (Baltimore beat San Francisco in Super Bowl 47), and a decade later, McPherson played a key role in the Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl, although it ended in a narrow loss to the L.A. Rams. Both were perfect that first postseason, though McPherson had more attempts and was able to tie Adam Vinatieri’s 2013 record for most field goals made in a postseason.
“I always looked up to him was like in high school, in college, and so now getting to compete against him three times this year is pretty special,” McPherson said. “You have to learn stuff from just watching him. You always want to go out there and compete against the kicker on the other side, and it just so happens to be one of the best to ever do it.”
As the Bengals look to advance in the playoffs, they just need McPherson to be McPherson, though, and coach Zac Taylor said there is still a lot of faith he will be ready when his opportunities come.
“Those moments can come at any time,” Taylor said. “Those moments can be in the first quarter of a game, a kick, and you just never know how that’s going to shape up with the final score. I really like Evan’s mental toughness. I think that he’s prepared for big moments, which the playoffs are plenty of big moments. But he always does a great job with his preparation and is already at those times.”
Ravens at Bengals, 8:15 p.m., NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7
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