KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Evan McPherson’s 31-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Cincinnati Bengals to a 27-24 win to claim the AFC Championship over Kansas City on Sunday at GEHA Arrowhead Stadium.
The win sends the Bengals to their first Super Bowl since the 1988 season.
“I thought there was a good chance we were going to the Super Bowl,” McPherson said. “It’s just so surreal that this game came down to a field goal. It wasn’t just me. Our defense put us in a great position with the interception.”
McPherson made all four field-goal attempts on Sunday, and is 12 for 12 on kicks in the playoffs.
The game-winner from “Money Mac” was set up after Von Bell picked off Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes at the Cincinnati 45-yard line in overtime.
The ball was tipped by defensive back Jessie Bates, and Bell snagged it out of the air to give the Bengals good field position.
“When our back is up against the wall, that’s when we fight the best,” Bell said about the interception. “Guys bowed up. Made big-time plays. We have a resilient group of guys and we really showed that.”
After the pick, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow found wide receiver Tee Higgins for an eight-yard gain for a first down.
“We knew at halftime that we just needed to be us,” Higgins said. “I’m ready to celebrate some more.”
Higgins finished the game with 103 yards receiving on six catches, including a 44-yarder in the third quarter.
From there, Bengals running back Joe Mixon carried the load — and ran the ball for 13 yards to the Chiefs 12-yard-line.
Burrow sat on the ball and cleared the stage for McPherson, who won the AFC Divisional game over Tennessee 19-16 with a field goal as time expired.
“Nothing surprises me now because I know the type of guys we have,” Burrow said. “We just don’t quit.”
Mixon pounded out 88 yards on 21 carries for Cincinnati on Sunday.
The AFC Championship game was sent into overtime after Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker nailed a 44-yarder as time expired in regulation — tying the game at 24-24.
During the drive, Cincinnati defensive end Sam Hubbard sacked Mahomes twice — on back-to-back plays when the Chiefs originally had the ball at the Bengals’ five-yard line.
“You can’t even write stories like this,” Hubbard said. “It’s amazing.”
Cincinnati rallied in the third quarter, and cut the deficit to 21-19 when Burrow found Ja’Marr Chase for a three-yard TD with 13 seconds left.
Chase was limited to 54 yards receiving on six catches with one TD.
Burrow connected with Trent Taylor, who was called up from the practice squad, for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21-21.
The drive was set up when Cincinnati defensive end B.J. Hill picked off Mahomes at the Kansas City 27-yard line with 2:18 to play in the quarter.
“This is where our team is meant to be,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “I’m not surprised by this at all.”
The Chiefs jumped out to a 7-0 lead with 7:17 to go in the first quarter — when Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill on a 10-yard TD strike.
The Bengals answered when McPherson kicked a 32-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the period —making the score 7-3.
The Chiefs answered and put together a seven-play drive that culminated when Mahomes connected with tight end Travis Kelce on a five-yard strike for the 14-3 lead.
Kansas City took control and added to the score — when Mahomes found Mecole Hardman on a three-yard TD pass with 5:04 to go in the half.
But Burrow came back and lofted a screen to Samaje Perine, who rumbled 41 yards into the end zone to make the score 21-10.
The Chiefs then had a chance to increase their lead, and had the ball with 1:05 to play before the break.
Mahomes led Kansas City downfield to the Cincinnati 15-yard line with 13 seconds left, as a pass interference on Cincinnati’s Eli Apple put the ball at the one-yard line.
But Kansas City head coach Andy Reid chose to go for the touchdown instead of the field goal.
The Bengals defense held at the goal line, and trailed by 11 going into the half.
“I think that was the turning point of the game,” Burrow added. “They drove down the field and came away with no points at halftime.”
McPherson then cut into the Chiefs’ lead on a 31-yard field goal with 2:58 to go in the third quarter to make the score 21-13.
Burrow completed 23 of 38 passes for 250 yards with two TDs and one interception.
Mahomes finished the day with 275 yards in the air, three touchdowns and two picks.
“I think if you would have told me coming into the year when I got drafted that we’d be here this year, obviously it would be a shock,” Burrow said. “But like I said earlier, no, I’m not surprised anymore.”
Mahomes struggled in the second half, and took sacks at crucial moments in the game.
“They just had a spy on me, for the most part, and I’ve usually done a good job getting around that guy, but they had a good game plan,” he said. “They were doing a lot of similar stuff in the first half, but we were executing at a higher level. They stayed with it, but I mean I gotta be better. When you’re up 21-3 at one point in the game, you can’t lose it, and I put that one myself.”
Cincinnati will face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium in LA.