Bengals notes: Rookie kicker Evan McPherson is redefining the Bengals offense

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About an hour before the Cincinnati Bengals game against the Las Vegas Raiders started on Sunday, kicker Evan McPherson was going through his pregame warmup routine. On one of his attempts, McPherson went through his normal approach and planted his foot to kick.

The grass shifted underneath McPherson’s feet, and he lost his footing and stumbled off-balanced.

After that kick, McPherson told himself that he needed to slow down his approach and “scoot up” to the kick. The grass at Allegiant Stadium was torn up like an unmaintained golf course, so McPherson couldn’t use the same pre-kick technique that he had used on turf all season.

And then McPherson played the best game of his NFL career.

“I knew if I got my plant foot in the ground, there was a pretty good chance it would go through,” McPherson said. “It came down to figuring out the (grass) pre-game.”

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) shakes hands with a fan after signing an autograph at the conclusion of an NFL Week 11 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) shakes hands with a fan after signing an autograph at the conclusion of an NFL Week 11 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

McPherson, the Bengals rookie fifth round pick, made four field goals in the Bengals 32-13 win over the Raiders. He tied a single-game NFL record with three field goals of at least 50 yards, and McPherson became the first kicker in NFL history with six 50-or-more yard field goals in his first 10 career games.

When the game was close over the first three quarters and while the Bengals offense struggled to reach the end zone, McPherson was the reason the Bengals stayed in the game. He made a 54-yard field goal, a 53-yard field goal and a 51-yard field goal, and all three kicks had room to spare.

“You’re looked at to make those kicks now,” McPherson said. “ I feel like if you’re on your side of the field, there should be a really good chance you put it through.”

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson celebrates his 54-yard field goal with teammates during the first quarter Sunday against the Raiders in Las Vegas.
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson celebrates his 54-yard field goal with teammates during the first quarter Sunday against the Raiders in Las Vegas.

McPherson has done enough over the first 10 games of the season to shape the Bengals strategy on offense.

Early in the fourth quarter, with the Bengals leading 13-6, Cincinnati had the ball on the 42-yard line. On 3rd and 15, head coach Zac Taylor had two options. He could make an aggressive call for an unlikely first down, or Taylor could call a short pass to set up a long field goal.

In previous years when the Bengals had other kickers, the Bengals wouldn’t have had the option to go for the long field goal. Former Bengals kicker Randy Bullock has missed half of his career kicks from 50-or-more yards. Mike Nugent, the Bengals kicker before that, made 13 of his 30 career kicks from 50-plus yards.

McPherson has made six of his seven kicks this year from that distance, so Taylor called for the short pass. Following a 9-yard pickup on a screen to running back Samaje Perine, McPherson converted a 51-yard kick.

"It's nice to be in the NFL and expect your kicker to make those 50-yarders,” Taylor said. “You do have confidence when he lines up anywhere from 54 (yards) to 53 to 51 to 57, he's going to make it. We know it's not always going to be perfect, but we've got a ton of confidence in him.”

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) lines up to kick a field goal in the second quarter of the NFL Week 6 game between the Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. The Bengals led 10-0 at halftime.
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) lines up to kick a field goal in the second quarter of the NFL Week 6 game between the Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. The Bengals led 10-0 at halftime.

CONSTANT PRESSURE: Last season, when defensive end Trey Hendrickson was tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 13.5, Hendrickson benefited from playing on one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.

Last year with the New Orleans Saints, Hendrickson was just a part of their pass rushing success. Following the 2020 season, Hendrickson signed with the Bengals to be their No. 1 pass rusher on a defensive line without any proven standout pass rushers.

Through 11 games, Hendrickson ranks ninth in the NFL with 9.5 sacks. He’s having an even better season with the Bengals than he did in 2020, and Hendrickson is on pace for 15 sacks.

“I mean, it's not by accident by any means,” Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “Something that he talks about is 'one a game,' and that's what his goal is, to get a sack every game. He said that from training camp on, and he's doing it every day.”

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) forces a fumble of Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) in the fourth quarter during a NFL Week 11 game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) forces a fumble of Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) in the fourth quarter during a NFL Week 11 game, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

TOUGH MATCHUP: When the Bengals played the Pittsburgh Steelers in September, Hubbard said he was surprised with how hard it was to tackle Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris.

Over the first three months of the season, Harris has been the best rookie running back in the NFL. The first round pick from Alabama is averaging 102.2 total yards per game.

“I think with his size and the way he plays the game, he's a physical runner,” Hubbard said. “He's a great player, a physical runner, and a lot of their offense runs through him so it's gonna be a great challenge for us.”

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton (21) tackles Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) in the fourth quarter during a Week 3 NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton (21) tackles Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) in the fourth quarter during a Week 3 NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Bengals kicker Evan McPherson is setting records in his first season