Summer 2022

On cusp of kicking records, Bengals' Evan McPherson says he 'can't compete my best' without God

When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Evan McPherson in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, they were the only team to pick a kicker that year. They weren’t setting a precedent, as three kickers were drafted in 2020, two in 2019, two in 2018, three in 2017, and one in 2016. The 2015 draft was the last time no kickers were selected.

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But drafting a kicker is always risky. They often don’t pan out or don’t find their groove as a professional until later in their career. One example: Justin Rohrwasser was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, but he failed to make the active roster and was cut less than a year after getting drafted. He has yet to compete in a regular-season game.

McPherson not only made the roster this year, he emerged as one of the best kickers in the league.

In the regular season, he hit 46 of his 48 extra-point attempts (95.8 percent) and 28 of his 33 field-goal attempts (84.8 percent), for a season total of 130 points (tied for 11th in the NFL). In 16 games played, he averaged 8.1 points a game (tied for fourth in the NFL). Had he not missed Cincinnati’s regular-season finale with a groin injury, he could have set the Bengals’ single-season scoring record (132 points).

Furthermore, McPherson has connected on 12 field goals of at least 50 yards (regular season and playoffs) to set an NFL record, and he’s had five game-winning field goals. Two of them have come in the playoffs.

In the divisional round against the top-seeded Tennessee Titans, McPherson’s 52-yard field goal as time expired gave Cincinnati its first road playoff win in franchise history. After the game, the Bengals boasted about drafting him.

A week later, his 31-yard field goal in overtime put the Bengals in the Super Bowl for the first time since 1988. Again, the team boasted.

Those two legendary kicks are among the 12 he’s hit in the postseason (without any misses), putting him two field goals short of Adam Vinatieri’s record from the 2006 postseason (when he went 14-for-15). Three of McPherson’s postseason makes have been from 50-plus yards, leaving him two shy of another Vinatieri record.

According to longtime NFL kicker and CBS kicking analyst Jay Feely, the only postseason better than McPherson’s for a kicker was Vinatieri in 2001, when he made a 45-yarder in the snow to force overtime against the Raiders, then a 23-yarder to win that game, followed by a walk-off 48-yarder to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl.

Throughout his stellar rookie season, McPherson has been noted for his confidence. He says it obviously comes from practice and repetition, but also from his faith in God. As the Bengals prepare to face the Rams in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, he was asked by the media this week about his faith.

“I lean on my faith a lot, when it comes to football and just my life in general,” he said. “I really feel like I can’t compete my best without it. I know everything happens for a reason and I know God’s going to be there to help me throughout the ups and downs. So as long as I keep Him in my life close to me, I know there’s nothing I can’t do.”

One way McPherson has expressed his faith is by wearing a “God is Good” shirt. After both of his game-winning playoff kicks, he attended his postgame press conferences in the shirt. He also closes just about every one of his Instagram posts with a Bible verse.

“I just wanted to show [my faith], and one simple way to do that is to just wear a shirt and maybe post a Bible verse in my captions on Instagram,” he told the media.

 

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A post shared by Evan Mcpherson (@evan_mcpherson04)

If the first three Bengals playoff games — when McPherson attempted and made four field goals in each contest — are any indication, he should get an opportunity on Sunday to top Vinatieri’s marks. And a chance to kick a game-winner for the Super Bowl title would be a dream.

“Adam’s definitely a guy I’ve looked up to and watched a lot of videos on growing up as a kid, and shoot, still today,” McPherson said this week. “I love to watch his run with the Patriots when he’s kicking game-winners in the Super Bowl. I think that’s every kid’s dream is to kick the game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl.”

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