Walsh still confident after preseason misses

Blair Walsh has missed both of his field goal attempts beyond 50 yards. Walsh and holder Jeff Locke talked about the process as they search for answers.

Blair Walsh is still calling himself a “confident kicker,” despite a preseason that has kicked back at him.

In his rookie season, nobody was better than Walsh at the long field goal. The 2012 sixth-round draft pick set an NFL record with 10 field goals of 50 yards or more and three in a game, helping him earn Associated Press All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.

This preseason has been more challenging, as he has missed both of his field goal attempts of 50 yards or more and an extra point.

“It’s preseason. We’re going to get it figured out, continue to work hard. I thought I had a good camp. It’s not indicative of that. It’s part of preseason,” Walsh said after Saturday night’s game. “… You’re getting back used to playing games. There’s no excuse for that.”

Lucky for Walsh and the Minnesota Vikings, it is the preseason. His misses don’t count toward his otherwise respectable 89.7 accuracy percent in his two seasons on the league. And he has looked solid in practices and pregame warmups.

But in the games so far, he is 4-for-6 in the preseason, hitting all four his field goal attempts under 40 yards and missing both of his attempts of 50 or more. He hasn’t attempted any between 40 and 49 yards.

He also missed an extra point wide left with 22 seconds left in Saturday night’s 30-28 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

“The crazy thing is, other than the extra point at the end, the other two misses from 50 he hit the ball really well, like he killed the ball,” said punter and holder Jeff Locke. “When I looked up, I thought they’d be in for sure. From 51, he hit three-quarters of the way up (on the upright). It’s crazy. I think for him, his leg is looking so lively on kickoffs and on field goals, it’s just got to be some minor adjustment. It might have been a step or something like that. I think our operation is pretty good.”

Walsh seemed perplexed by the misses and wasn’t sure why they happened, but his assessment closely mirrored that of Locke’s – the extra point (from 33 yards) was just a bad kick and the miss from 51 was only slightly off.

“We just didn’t hit the ball well on that last extra point. I thought I hit the actual 51 pretty well. It just drifted too far left at the end,” Walsh said. “I’m confident in the way I played the last couple of preseasons. I know when I’m off and when I’m on and I feel like once the season starts I’ll be on.

“I probably was a little quick, didn’t slow down as much as I’d have liked to. I thought I hit the 51-yarder pretty well. I’ll be fine.”

Locke said he thought the hold was clean on the misses.

“I thought so. It’s kind of hard to tell in-game and in-moment,” he said. “We’ll go back and watch the film on Monday morning and we’ll kind of figure out what’s going on, but I’m not too worried at this point about Blair.”

August is the first time the kick-and-hold combination of Walsh and Locke has played games at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota, but they made a few trips to the outdoor stadium during the offseason. They even charted the wind patterns and created a computer graphic of them for their in-season reference.

But after the demolition of the enclosed Metrodome, Walsh said kicking outdoors has nothing to do with his misses.

“I think you’re going to get the same type of kicks off my foot indoors. The miss last week, there was no type of wind at all. (Saturday) there was a slight breeze in your face and that’s it,” Walsh said. “And then the extra point was dead still. It still has nothing to with outdoor, wind.”

So far in the preseason, Walsh has missed wide right from 53 yards and wide left from 51. But his confidence is still right down the middle, he said.

“That’s how I am. I’m a confident kicker,” he said. “The way I’ve played in practice and the way I’ve played in the last two seasons, I know when I’m off and when I’m on. I’ll be on.”


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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