NASHVILLE (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals continue to conjure up postseason droughts. And their most recent victory has put them in their first AFC final in 33 years.
Rookie Evan McPherson kicked a 52-yard field goal as time expired and the Bengals, who advanced to the playoffs as fourth in the AL, pulled off an upset Saturday, beating the Tennessee Titans 19-16 to cut the longest active streak by a team without a playoff win on the road.
“He has ice in his veins,” Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow said of McPherson. “Not much more to say. He is the most serene guy there can be.”
A week after ending a 31-year postseason winless curse, Cincinnati (12-7) finally picked up its first playoff win on the road after losing the first seven.
The Bengals reached the 1981 and 1988 Super Bowls by winning the playoff matchups at home.
“We’re here to make some noise, and teams are going to have to pay attention to us,” Burrow said.
This time, they got the win thanks to three interceptions on passes from Ryan Tannehill, which preceded two of McPherson’s four field goals. Luke Wilson grabbed a pass from Tannehill with 20 seconds remaining at the Cincinnati 47-yard line.
Burrow then completed a 19-yard pass to rookie Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase before the Bengals had a couple of runs that set up the ball for McPherson to break up the game.
“This is a kicker’s dream,” McPherson said. “Take charge of solving the match.”
Burrow overcame nine sacks as Tennessee tied a postseason record four other teams have set. Cincinnati’s second-year quarterback threw for 348 yards, and Chase had 109 receiving yards.
Only once before has a nine-time sacked quarterback won a playoff game. It was Len Dawson of the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat Buffalo to win the American League championship in 1966.
Joe Mixon ran for the Bengals’ only touchdown, a 16-yard drive on the first drive of the third quarter.
“We find form all year,” Burrow said. “Man, it was an absolutely crazy match! But this is a very good team, with an incredible defensive line. They had a great plan defensively. You have to give them credit. In the end, we found a way.”
The Titans (12-6) wrapped up their 25th season in Tennessee with their third straight loss on home turf despite finishing first in the AL in the regular season. They haven’t won at home in the playoffs since January 2003.
“I don’t think Ryan or I or anybody did enough to win the game,” said Mike Vrabel, the Titans’ quarterback. “That’s right: It doesn’t depend on one person.”