After going 1-for-5 in field goals made against the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions, Blair Walsh appeared to right the ship in last Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. He made both of the field goals he attempted and all three extra points that he attempted during the game.
As well as the regular tasks that an NFL kicker does throughout the course of the game, Walsh was also asked to perform some tasks not seen very often in NFL games. The first was one fans don’t see every day, but is by no means a rare occurrence.
There was a personal foul on Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon following a two-point conversion by the Vikings, which meant that Walsh would be kicking off from the 50-yard line. He did so without hesitation and gave the ball enough hang time so that Jarvis Landry had to come out of the end zone to catch it, and once he did haul it in the Vikings special teams was all around him and forced a turnover.
“We work, actually, on the popup a lot because it does happen,” Walsh said. “We work on it from the 35, we work on it from the 50, so we are always prepared as a special teams unit.”
There was another play that happened later in the fourth quarter that is a rare occurrence, and one that Walsh had never done in a game before. After the Vikings failed to move the ball, Jeff Locke was forced to punt the ball from the Vikings’ own 11-yard line, and after a low snap the punt was blocked out the back of the end zone for a safety.
This meant that the Vikings needed to punt the ball back to the Dolphins, but with only a little more than 40 seconds left in the game, and the Vikings being down by two points, Minnesota needed the ball back. This meant that the team had to do an onsides punt, and it just came down to a matter of who would perform the punt.
When it is a punt usually one would think it would be Locke doing it, but in this situation it was place-kicker Walsh coming out to punt the ball.
“We kind of do (the onside punt) in practice on our own,” Locke said. “We actually saw Tim Masthay do it maybe one or two weeks ago. Or, I think, it was Mason Crosby who went into the game and did it. And we started working with it, and (Walsh) was definitely better at it than I was, doing it in practice to each other. So we decided to have him do it. We knew right away he was going to do it.”
Walsh has always been a confident player when it comes to the way he plays his game. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has even joked about how Walsh might think he can punt the ball better than Locke can. And when Walsh was asked to do an onside punt – which he has never done in a game before – he was still as confident as ever.
“When it comes to the onsides, that’s something I always just sort of mess around with in the indoor facility when we’re waiting in-between practice periods,” Walsh said. “So I’ve done that kick probably a couple hundred times in my life. Just hitting the onsides and seeing what it would do coming out of my hands. So when we actually got to do it in a game I was pretty comfortable with it, and that’s why I was out there doing it and not Jeff; because I’m always sort of screwing around practicing it.”
He was able to lay down a good kick that rolled across the field and jumped up into the air at the right time, but all the Vikings special teams players were blocked on the field, so the ball went out of bounds before Adam Thielen could get to it.
With a fourth quarter that saw 41 total points scored, a failed two-point conversation that was made on a second try because of a penalty, a kickoff from the 50-yard line that resulted in a turnover, and a blocked punt that went out the back of the end zone for a safety, perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise that game came down to something as crazy as an onside punt.
Walsh performed rare kicks well
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