NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ba boom.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a heartbeat away from the Super Bowl.
Evan McPherson’s 52-yard field goal as time expired gave the No. 4 seed Bengals the 19-16 upset win over No. 1 seed Tennessee on Saturday to claim a win in the AFC Divisional Round in front of nearly 70,000 fans at Nissan Stadium.
“I just went out and did my job,” McPherson said, after the win. “It’s not just me. It’s the whole team. We worked so hard and got turnovers when we needed them. They put us in position to win.”
The big turnover that led to the game-winner from McPherson was when Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson intercepted Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill at the Tennessee 47-yard line with 20 seconds to play — with the score knotted 16-16.
Bengals cornerback Eli Apple deflected the pass, and Wilson grabbed it in the air to set the stage for McPherson.
“Good things happen when you run to the ball,” Wilson said. “As many times we can give the ball back to our offense and give them more opportunities to score — that’s what we are always trying to do.”
From there, Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow found wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase for 19 yards with 15 ticks left on the clock to put the ball in McPherson’s range.
“I had a bench route and the corner jumped inside me, so I thought that was a good job by him to jump inside,” Chase said about the catch. “I was able to create separation and keep the angle high and Joe hit me.”
Chase finished the game with 109 yards receiving on five catches.
Burrow, who threw for 348 yards and completed 28 of 37 passes with one interception, knew the interception by Wilson left him enough time on the clock to get the ball where it needed to be for the game-winner.
“We had 20 seconds and two time outs left and that’s enough for two good plays,” he said. “We kind of knew what coverage they would be in, and we called a great play and Ja’Marr made a great catch and a great route.”
Burrow sat on the next play, and put the ball on the right hashmark for McPherson to boot the pigskin through for the win.
“That’s a kicker’s dream to have the game on your shoulders,” McPherson added. “We do this in practice all the time. I said let’s just go do it one more time.”
The Titans were able to sack Burrow nine times to set a franchise playoff record.
“They had a great rush plan and made it tough on us,” Burrow added. “I feel good right now. Tomorrow (Sunday) might be a different story but right now I feel great.”
Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor said his team knew the Titans’ defensive line was going to go after Burrow.
“That’s one of the best D-lines in football to be quite honest,” he said. “They came at us in a lot of different ways and different blitzes. We are all going to take blame in that and work on it. But we found a way to win again and that’s all that matters. Our defense played great and gave us opportunities to win again.”
Last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, Cincinnati linebacker Germaine Pratt picked off a pass at the end of the game near the goal line to secure the win in the AFC Wild Card game in The Jungle.
“This is the expectation for this team,” Taylor added. “This situation is not too big for our guys.”
Cincinnati, the No. 4 seed, grabbed a 16-6 lead with 9:34 to go in the third quarter — when Joe Mixon high-stepped into the end zone from 16 yards out.
Mixon finished the game with 54 yards on 14 carries and one TD.
“I’m still dreaming right now to be honest,” Mixon said after the win. “I’m in the highest cloud ever imagined right now. The linebackers and safety was flowing hard and I just seen backside was open and I was fortunate enough to find daylight.”
The Titans answered when Randy Bullock nailed a 34-yard field goal with 1:36 to play in the third quarter.
That was followed by a Tannehill to A.J. Brown 33-yard TD pass to tie the game at 16-16 with 15 seconds left in the third period.
The touchdown was set up after a lengthy officials’ review of a Burrow interception — when Titans’ defensive back Amani Hooker grabbed a tipped pass off the hands of Bengals running back Samaje Perine.
The ball appeared to hit the ground, but the review booth confirmed the original call on the field as an interception.
The pick was Burrow’s first interception in his last 210 attempts.
On the other end, Tannehill was picked off three times and threw for 220 yards, one touchdown and completed 15 of 24 passes.
The Bengals got three field goals from McPherson in the first half, while Tennessee scored on a Derrick Henry three-yard run.
After a defensive penalty on Cincinnati, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel opted to go for the two-point conversion, but Henry was stuffed at the line and the game was tied at 6-6.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Burrow added. “They just played tough.”
Cincinnati will play the winner of the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills’ Divisional Playoff game in the AFC Championship — and a chance to go to the Super Bowl.