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Bengals Notebook: PBS Celebrates Its Crowded Hour: 'It Was Electric'; Evan Keel McPherson; Defense Shows What It Has On Paper

Evan McPherson's first walkoff earned a ride off.
Evan McPherson's first walkoff earned a ride off.

The gates opened at Paul Brown Stadium after a year hiatus and the fans, all 56,525, wasted no time making an impact on Sunday's opener. The Bengals paid them back by giving them an extra 10 minutes that gave the faithful its most satisfying victory in a couple of years.

Back in the day, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer used the PBS din to break the back of many a Pro Bowl quarterback when he was the Bengals defensive coordinator. But on Sunday he saw his club commit false starts on the first two plays, three on the first five and five the rest of the way as the crowd roared.

Running back Joe Mixon, who feeds off the house like a veteran Broadway actor, took a deep breath before beginning his postgame media moment.

"I don't know if you all felt it, but I thought it was electric out there," Mixon said. "The atmosphere, it was crazy."

Joe Burrow could feel it from the quarterback's perspective and predicts it's going to get louder.

"The Vikings were going on their normal cadence. They weren't going on silent at the beginning of the game, and they false started three, four, five times," Burrow said. "That's strictly because of the fans. That's why they give us such a big advantage. We're going to keep winning, they're going to keep coming and it's going to get louder and louder and louder. That's a big part."

EVAN KEEL: The man who made them explode on the last play of the day, rookie kicker Evan McPherson, is 22, looks 12 and acts 32. Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons was trying to get him to the Bengals 42 to set up a 60-yarder to win it before Burrow and C.J. Uzomah took over.

If he sounds and coolly performs like a guy with the pulse of someone in the obits, he does because he works at it.

"Over the minicamp, training camp, and leading up to this first game I've been working on controlling my heart rate, and making sure it stays low, and I don't get too antsy or nervous," McPherson said. "I think I've done a great job of controlling it, and I'm able to stay calm in those moments a lot better than I used to."

Of course, he hasn't had any moment like this. Despite being the only kicker drafted, he never had a walk-off kick at Florida. So, no, he had never been carried off the field before. After head coach Zac Taylor gave him the game ball, McPherson said he was going to share it with his holder Kevin Huber and long snapper Clark Harris.

They're the two oldest guys on the team and it turns out that Harris ended his 185th Bengals game that tied Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz for sixth on the club's all-time list with a winning flick. This shows you how rare it is.

In his 191st game, one shy of Ken Anderson for third place on the all-time list, Huber held for an OT winner. He first did that in his fourth game of his career when he held for Shayne Graham in Cleveland in 2009. He didn't do it again until 2013, when he held for Mike Nugent in Buffalo. Nugent missed one the next year against Carolina, but came back in 2015 to dismiss Seattle in front of a PBS throng. And that's been it until McPherson did it in his first game.

It took Graham, one of McPherson's coaches at Florida, five years to get a crack at an OT winner and he missed a 47-yarder on basically the last overtime play of the '08 tie with the Eagles. The club's most accurate career kicker, Graham then beat Cleveland next year in the dying snaps of OT. (Thanks to more fourth-down QB magic from Carson Palmer.)

So Graham's student converts on his first chance and is now eight behind Bengals kicker Jim Breech's iconic 9-for-9 in OT.

McPherson, the Bengals' first rookie Opening Day kicker since Neil Rackers opened PBS in 2000, is already having better luck than Rackers. He's kicking on turf while Rackers had to deal with PBS's still-growing grass and an anemic offense. While Rackers (a very good kicker who went to the Pro Bowl later with the Cardinals) had his first try blocked and didn't get his first field goal until October, McPherson drilled a 53-yarder on his first try. That's believed to have tied the Bengals rookie record set by Doug Pelfrey in 1993.

McPherson knew he would get Zimmed with two timeouts to freeze him.

"Our process is the same. If they call a timeout, we go ahead and do a practice kick, and I think the practice kick helps you more than it hurts you," McPherson said. "You learn from it, and you hit the ball pretty good, so you're pretty confident going into the next one."

Asked what he learned on the one he sent through as Zimmer barked time, McPherson shrugged.

"I learned that I struck that one well, and I was going to strike the next one well," McPherson said. "It's just like a practice kick, and that's kind of how I treat it, and nothing really changed."

Check the guy's pulse. Bengaldom's heart is still racing.

BIG D: That overhauled Bengals defense did things on Sunday they haven't done in a few years. They put the hammer down on two great players as they executed what they put on the offseason blackboard when they rebuilt it, not to mention making the biggest play of the game on linebacker Germaine Pratt's strip and recovery.

Led by foundational nose tackle D.J. Reader, free-agent defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (who also had a sack) and Bengals vet Josh Tupou, they held Vikings running back Dalvin Cook to 61 yards. Last year during his 1,500-yard season, Cook had fewer than that once and that was in last year's opener against the Packers.

Their edge rushers, led by their relentless free agent Trey Hendrickson, gave the Vikes fits. They didn't get a sack, but the Vikes had six holding calls. And they got an interior pass rush they haven't had since Geno Atkins was healthy with Ogunjobi getting one and recent pickup B.J. Hill getting two sacks.

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, off a 1,400-yard rookie season, got loose just once for a 34-yarder and finished with 71 yards, a number he bettered nine times last season.

Free safety Jessie Bates III led them with nine tackles and played all but one of the 83 snaps. Strong safety Vonn Bell and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie played them all and that trio, along with Pratt, was huge all day. Awuzie showed up like he has ever since he signed back in March and had two passes defensed. Bell was all over the yard blitzing and stopping the run (a tackle for a loss was among his seven tackles) and Pratt had the big play to go with a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss.

Check out some of the best game action photos as the Bengals opened the 2021 regular season at home against the Minnesota Vikings.