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#pounditSaturday, January 22, 2022

Football

Evan McPherson had awesome quote before his winning kick

Evan McPherson waves

Evan McPherson was one of the heroes in the Cincinnati Bengals’ 19-16 playoff win over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. His mentality and confidence are big reasons for his success.

McPherson went 4/4 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points, making all five of his kicks in the Bengals’ win. He accounted for 13 of his team’s 19 points.

And according to Joe Burrow, McPherson knew he was going to make the biggest kick of all.

Burrow shared after the game that a few minutes before making the winning kick, McPherson told Bengals backup quarterback Brandon Allen that Cincinnati was headed to the AFC Championship Game.

That kind of confidence is awesome and exactly what a kicker needs. They need to approach a big kick knowing they’re going to make it. They can’t think about the pressure or have second thoughts, because that sort of thinking often throws off one’s mechanics and leads to mistakes.

The Bengals flexed on Twitter after their big win regarding McPherson. It sure looks like they knew what they were doing.

McPherson just needs to keep that confidence and not let it go.

Photo: Jan 15, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson (2) waves to fans during warmups prior to the game against the Las Vegas Raiders in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Vrabel not burying Ryan Tannehill despite bad game

Ryan Tannehill in a jersey

Ryan Tannehill played poorly and cost his Tennessee Titans in their Divisional Round playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. Despite his bad game, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is not going to bury his quarterback.

Tannehill threw three interceptions in his Titans’ 19-16 loss to the Bengals. The turnovers included a costly interception that led to Cincinnati’s winning field goal as time expired.

The fans may put the loss on Tannehill, but Vrabel wasn’t about to single out his quarterback.

“It’s never gonna be about one person as long as I’m the head coach, which will be a while,” Vrabel said.

That’s a nice comment from Vrabel, who is making it clear he intends to continue winning big in Tennessee. It’s also nice of him to stand by his quarterback despite the bad game.

Tannehill has led the Titans to three straight winning seasons and playoff appearances, including a conference championship game loss. He’s done more than enough to deserve the kind of loyalty from his coach that he received on Saturday.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals flex on Twitter over kicker Evan McPherson’s clutch game

Evan McPherson kicks

The Cincinnati Bengals flexed on Twitter Saturday over kicker Evan McPherson’s big game.

McPherson went 4/4 on field goal attempts in his Bengals’ 19-16 win over the Tennessee Titans in their AFC Divisional Round playoff game on Saturday.

McPherson made a 54-yard field goal late in the second quarter, and then he nailed a clutch 52-yarder to win the game as time expired.

Cincinnati was proud of McPherson for his big game. The Bengals’ Twitter account beat its chest for a minute, boasting about their draft pick of McPherson.

Teams are sometimes criticized for using draft picks on kickers, as the Bengals did when they selected McPherson in the fifth round (No. 149) last year. But McPherson turned in a very solid season, going 28/33 (84.8 percent) on field goals and 46/48 on extra points. More importantly, he’s 8/8 on his field goals in the playoffs so far.

The Bengals wouldn’t be in the AFC Championship Game without him. Bengals coach Zac Taylor knows it.

Was Zac Taylor trying to call timeout before game-changing interception?

Zac Taylor running

The Cincinnati Bengals pulled out a miracle victory in the final minute of their divisional playoff game against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. But Bengals coach Zac Taylor almost prevented it from happening altogether.

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a game-changing interception as the team was driving with less than 30 seconds left in a 16-16 ballgame.

The interception gave Cincinnati the ball near midfield. A 19-yard pass play from Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase on the very next play put the Bengals in field-goal range. Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson then won the game with a 52-yard field goal as time expired.

Going back to the crucial Tannehill interception, video went viral of Taylor appearing to be calling for a timeout before the ball was even snapped. In the video, Taylor could be seen running up to the line official but failing to get his attention. The play proceeded, and Tannehill threw the pick.

Others also noticed that Taylor seemed to be asking for a timeout.

The Bengals had two timeouts remaining at the time, and using one might have made sense since the Titans were on third down. Getting a stop on third down would have forced a punt and left at least some time for Cincinnati to do something before time expired in regulation.

Others pointed out though that Taylor may have been calling for a penalty against Tennessee. In the video above, you can see Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan moving before the snap, potentially creating grounds for a false start.

In any case, the interception sequence ended up putting the Bengals in a position to win the game. If he actually was trying to call a timeout there, you can bet that Taylor is thanking his lucky stars that it was not granted. Otherwise he might have dethroned this fellow head coach for the worst timeout call of the NFL season.

Boomer Esiason has strong halftime message for Mike Vrabel, analytics gurus

Boomer Esiason smiling

Boomer Esiason delivered a strong message to Mike Vrabel and analytics folks while speaking at halftime of the Tennessee Titans-Cincinnati Bengals AFC Divisional Round playoff game on Saturday.

The Titans were down 6-0 in the second quarter to the Bengals, who had kicked a pair of field goals early in the game. Tennessee tied it up with a Derrick Henry touchdown run in the second quarter.

Rather than attempt an extra point to take a 7-6 lead, the Titans went for two. Henry’s rush attempt fell short, leaving the game tied at six.

The Titans went into halftime trailing 9-6 and lost 19-16.

At halftime, Esiason took a shot at analytics folks while criticizing the Titans for their decision.

“This goes to all coaches out there. And I don’t want to upset people from MIT, Harvard or Yale. Don’t go for 2 until you have to. That’s my algorithm, and I’m sticking to it,” said Esiason.

There really was no reason to go for two at that point. Maybe Vrabel thought there was an opportunity to steal one more point by going for two, and if they didn’t make it, at worst the game would be tied.

Would it have made much of a difference had they converted? Probably not. The Bengals were the better team and came out hotter. Tennessee’s offense was flat, beginning and ending with Ryan Tannehill’s three interceptions, which cost his team the game.

The failed 2-point conversion was emblematic of bigger problems, such as their inability to execute, rather than a reflection of multiple poor coaching decisions.

Bears may have surprising favorite for head coach role?

Justin Fields

The Chicago Bears are one of the teams hiring both a head coach and general manager, and that may lead them to a combination favored by a key figure helping with the search.

Former Colts executive Bill Polian is closely involved with the Chicago search. Polian may be eyeing Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and Indianapolis scouting director Morocco Brown for the coach and GM positions in Chicago, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. Chiefs personnel director Ryan Poles has made a strong impression, however, and is firmly in the mix.

Eberflus is arguably the most surprising name here. The Colts defensive coordinator has been in the mix for a number of jobs in recent offseasons, but never seemed particularly close to landing one. Earlier rumors suggested that the Bears were leaning in a different direction, but even those candidates were favored by Polian.

Polian has gotten some things wrong in recent years. The Bears will be hoping this coaching search isn’t one of them, as he seems to have significant influence over the process.

Photo: May 15, 2021; Lake Forest, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) warms up during the NFL football team’s rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Titans awarded interception on controversial play against Bengals

Amani Hooker holds the ball

The Tennessee Titans were awarded an interception on a controversial play against the Cincinnati Bengals in their AFC Divisional Round playoff game on Saturday.

The Titans had just kicked a field goal to make it 16-9 late in the third quarter. After a good return, Cincinnati began their possession at their 40.

Joe Burrow dumped off a pass towards Samaje Perine out of the backfield, but he couldn’t hold onto the ball. Amani Hooker alertly scooped up the ball as it was headed towards the turf to secure an interception.

The officials reviewed the play to see whether the ball had hit the ground. Though slow-motion replay seemed to show Hooker grabbing the ball off the ground, watching in real-time made it seem like Hooker made the interception.

The officials upheld their initial call on the field of an interception, giving Tennessee the ball back. Then on 2nd-and-16, Ryan Tannehill threw a touchdown pass to AJ Brown. The Titans tied the game at 16.

Did the refs make the right call?

Aaron Donald fined for trying to choke DJ Humphries during playoff game

Aaron Donald grabs DJ Humphries

Aaron Donald was fined for trying to choke an opponent during a skirmish on Monday.

Donald got into it with Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman DJ Humphries during the NFC Wild Card game the Rams won 34-11. The Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman was seen reaching to grab Humphries around his neck:

Donald was seen as the aggressor in the incident, which is why he was fined $10,815 by the league while Humphries escaped a penalty.

Donald was also penalized at the time for unnecessary roughness. Donald had a half-sack in the game.

Donald is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and had 84 tackles and 12.5 sacks this season.

Deebo Samuel reportedly in line for monster new contract

Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel has been one of the breakout stars of the NFL season, and he may be about to parlay that into a huge payday.

Samuel will enter the final year of his rookie contract next season, but the San Francisco 49ers are known as an aggressive team when it comes to proactively handing out contract extensions. There is mutual interest between Samuel and the 49ers in a blockbuster contract extension, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, with the chance that Samuel could land a deal as high as $20 million annually.

Samuel has proven to be so dynamic that it’s hard to even argue with such a figure. The 26-year-old posted 1,770 yards from scrimmage this season, with six receiving touchdowns and eight more rushing scores. He’s become a dynamic threat at multiple positions and is the most important player in the San Francisco offense.

To retain Samuel, the 49ers can make one simple move to open up ample cap space for the move.

Tyreek Hill fined by NFL over cheerleader pom-pom celebration

Tyreek Hill holds pom poms

Tyreek Hill was fined by the NFL for an odd reason.

Hill scored on a 31-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter of his Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round of the playoffs last weekend. The Chiefs receiver grabbed some cheerleader pom-poms to celebrate his score:

Hill was not penalized by the referees during the game, but the NFL got to him afterwards.

NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reported on Saturday that Hill was fined $12,875 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Hill avoided the in-game penalty, but not the meager fine. For a guy taking home around $18 million this season, $12,875 is nothing.