Vikings agonize over crucial blocked kick

The Vikings were primed to go into halftime down seven points, but a blocked kick changed the complexion of the game in a hurry.

In a game where a team is dominated like the Vikings were in their 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, it’s hard to point to one play as to the reason why the team lost. But rarely does one play stand out so glaringly that it became s clear-cut, no-doubt turning point.

After giving up 17 straight points to the Patriots to fall behind 17-7, the Vikings were looking to cut the deficit in the closing seconds of the first half. The Vikings offense, which had struggled badly following the opening drive, came to life in the two-minute offense. The Vikings drove into field goal range and were looking to close out the half. Instead, Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones found a seam in the Vikings blocking and burst through, blocking the field goal and returning it 50 yards for a touchdown.

In a game full of frustration on offense and defense, it was the special teams play that became that became the iconic play that typified the performance.

“It would have been 17-10 had we made the field goal,” center John Sullivan said. “Instead, it ends up being 24-7. It was a huge swing of momentum. That’s a kick we need to go out there and make 100 times out of 100. That just goes with the overall theme of the day. We just didn’t take care of the ball.”

Kicker Blair Walsh knew that his team needed a boost and that, while 48-yard field goals are never automatic, they are expected to be made. To go from having the chance to take momentum into the locker room to being three scores behind was a difficult pill to swallow.

“It was huge,” Walsh said. “If we make that kick and get the execution that we need, we’re just down by seven going into halftime,” Walsh said. “That’s a big difference than being down by 17.”

When Jones made his move, he was on top of Walsh and punter Jeff Locke. Walsh saw him coming, but thought there was a chance he could elevate the ball over him.

“Our execution from snap to hold to kick seemed fine,” Walsh said. “The height coming off my foot seemed fine but (Jones) cut through a gap and was on top of us in a hurry.”

Long snapper Cullen Loeffler agreed, saying it had been a long time since he heard the sickening sound of a ball hitting Walsh’s foot and a hand almost simultaneously.

“There isn’t a worse sound in the world than that ‘thump-thump’ when you have a kick blocked,” Loeffler said. “I’m not sure we ever had one of those with Blair because he gets the ball up on the rise so quick. That doesn’t happen, but it was kind of how things went for us all day.”

That play seemed to open the floodgates, as turnovers continued for the Vikings, the defense couldn’t get off the field and the deficit just kept getting bigger.

“That was a big play, but there were a lot of things that went wrong,” guard Fusco said. “We came out strong, but after that we never had any rhythm. You miss a play here, miss a play there. We just didn’t execute. Plays like that add up on you.”

On a day when many more things went wrong than right, the flashpoint came on the field goal before halftime that became a painfully obvious turning point of the game.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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