Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson tried to call his shot again on Sundaybut this time he wasn’t trying to develop his own confidence.
In Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Veteran snapper Clark Harris left the game with a bicep injury, and Mitchell Wilcox had to replace urgently. By this point, Wilcox had already missed a snap on an extra point that would have won the game in regulation, and McPherson hoped Wilcox would relax in overtime.
Much like he did in the playoff win over the Tennessee Titans last year, McPherson said he was close to ending the game with a game-winning kick. This time, McPherson delivered the message to Wilcox to try and take the pressure off for the slamming player in a game that mattered for the first time.
It didn’t work out and Wilcox’s overtime was high.
After a second missed kick by McPherson as well as a series of self-inflicted errors by the Bengals, the Steelers beat the Bengals, 23-20, on an overtime field goal by Steelers kicker Chris Boswell during the season opener at Stade Paycor.
“(Harris’ injury) impacted the operation as a whole,” McPherson said. “Mitch was doing a good job (slam) on the sidelines. There wasn’t much to say. We were working on good timing and just hitting the ball. Mitch looked good in the warm-up. He did a very good job. I can’t blame him for anything. I just have to.
Wilcox, the Bengals’ third-string tight end, had to replace a 14-year-old veteran who had never had an unplayable break. No NFL team carries two long snappers on the 53-man roster because long snappers almost never leave the game with injuries.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said.
Harris’ injury and Wilcox’s two missed snaps cost the Bengals twice on Sunday. McPherson’s potentially game-winning extra run in the final second of regulation time was blocked, and one of the NFL’s top kickers missed a potentially game-winning 29-yard field goal in overtime.
“I was (just) thinking about the operation and I referred it to Kevin (Huber),” Wilcox said. “That’s all that popped into my head. I had a decent first that got stuck. The second was not my best shot. It was high. It’s on me.
McPherson said: “We have a great connection, me Kevin and Clark. I had complete confidence in Mitch. There is no excuse for failure.
It was one of the most unlikely defeats in Paycor Stadium history. If the Bengals miss the playoffs or a division title by one game this season, players will reminisce about the misses, mistakes and missed opportunities on Sunday.
The Steelers took an early 17-3 lead after four first-half turnovers by the Bengals. Joe Burrow made two of the worst decisions of his NFL career, twice forcing the ball downfield in double coverage on easily caught passes.
The Steelers covered for the Bengals receivers deep in the field, pressured Burrow before he had a chance to overtime, and picked up a backpack fumble.
“I would like to recover some of these (parts),“Burrow said.
Receiver Ja’Marr Chase said, “I’ve never seen him do so much. I just tell him, ‘Let’s go. Continue to be a leader. I would like him to do the same for me if I was depressed. I encouraged her, making sure we were on the right page. Now we have to keep working. »
With Tee Higgins out with a concussion, the Bengals made a second-half adjustment for Chase, Joe Mixon and Hayden Hurst to receive midfield threats on short passes. Down six points in the final seconds of regulation time, Burrow led a nine-play, 49-yard drive that appeared to be game-ending after a Burrow touchdown to Chase.
Then, with a high clinch from Wilcox and an extra point blocked, the game went into overtime. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor could have attempted a game-winning two-point conversion since Harris was injured. Instead, Taylor brought in Wilcox, who rarely practices the long snap.
“You have to trust that we’re going to do it,” Taylor said.
The Bengals defense opened overtime with a stoppage, and they played a near-perfect game on Sunday. Steelers quarterback Mitchell Trubisky never had an open window for a deep ball in the field, and he was under constant pressure.
When Burrow got the ball back, he continued to attack the windows the Steelers were giving him for short passes. He made quick passes to running backs and the tight end to drive the Bengals to the Steelers 11-yard line.
In the 3rd and 8th, Taylor decided to attempt the field goal. With Wilcox slamming, Taylor wanted to give Wilcox two potential chances. If Wilcox delivered a bad shot on third down, starter Kevin Huber could throw the ball away and give the special teams unit a chance to try again. All the while, McPherson was telling Wilcox he was going to make the winning shot.
“It was very Evan McPherson-esque,” Wilcox said. “I’m sure you remember the Tennessee game last year in the playoffs when he was joking on the sidelines before kicking. He was with me.
Wilcox delivered a high snap, but it was good enough for Huber to lay the ball down for McPherson. He missed the field goal, but the Bengals defense gave the team another chance to win the game by forcing their 11th save of the game.
On the 3rd and 8th in the final two minutes of overtime, the Bengals lined up from the 38-yard line. Even with Wilcox struggling, McPherson said he expected to go for a 55-yard field goal if Burrow threw an incomplete.
Burrow, who finished the game 33 for 53 with 338 yards and four picks, tried to play. He came out of the pocket, looked for a wide receiver and took a 12-yard sack that took the Bengals out of basket reach with 1:34 left.
It was Burrow’s third unusual mistake.
“You have to give them credit,” Burrow said. “They had a good plan and showed new things. We will watch the film and adapt.
As the clock ticked down on 4th down, the Bengals made another mistake. It was the difference between a tie and a loss.
Wilcox broke the ball with 1:04 left on the game clock and, crucially, 13 seconds on the game clock. That gave the Steelers 13 more seconds for the final practice of the game, which was the difference in the match. Boswell netted a 53-yard field goal as time expired.
“We were trying to take time and bleed the clock,” Wilcox said, “but we wanted to buy enough time in case we needed to check the protections.”
Said Taylor, “We broke with 13 seconds. I prefer to do something different. We were trying to make the operation go smoothly. We sacrificed (13) seconds to make sure we were all on the same page there.