Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had his struggles in the preseason and early on in the regular season, but has seemingly righted the ship. He has made his last 12 field goals in a row and is perfect since the bye week, although he did miss one extra point in that span.
Even though he has once again found his groove, you can be sure there were some nerves creeping back up for many people when the kicker took the field to attempt a game-winning field goal for the Vikings last Sunday. It was a 36-yard attempt for the win and on the road against a division rival, but Walsh was excited about the opportunity to win the game.
“It’s something you dream about and something you want to come down to you,” he said. “Obviously as a team, we want to beat them way more than that. But those situations, when they arise, you have to be ready and you have to be mentally prepared and physically prepared and do your job.”
Even though Walsh was ready to make the kick and win the game for his team, there was a lot that needed to happen for him to get the opportunity. The Vikings had just tied the game up at 20-20 in the fourth quarter and the Bears offense got the ball back with 1:49 remaining in the game. They had a chance to drive the ball down the field and win the game themselves, but the Vikings defense came up big and held them to a three-and-out when backup running back Jeremy Langford dropped a third-down pass.
When the Vikings offense got the ball back, they were at their own 34-yard line with one minute remaining in the game. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hit Stefon Diggs for a 4-yard gain and then went back to the air on the next play and hit Charles Johnson for a 35-yard gain, which put them at Chicago’s 38-yard line with 36 seconds left in the game.
That catch put the Vikings in range for a 45-yard field goal attempt, and Walsh had hit from 43 and 48 earlier in the game, but the Vikings wanted to make the attempt as easy as possible for their kicker. Not only did they want to get closer to the end zone, but they also wanted to move to the other side of the field.
“For a kicker’s sight, it’s a little bit more open for us,” Walsh said when asked why he likes kicking from the left hash mark more. “You know, every kick is a straight kick, but at the same time it’s more of just a sight picture. You’re looking at more of an open section of the uprights than you are from the right one.”
Johnson caught the ball on the right side of the field, which meant the ball would be placed on the right hash mark. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he didn’t even have to talk to Walsh about where he wanted the ball so the offense had to run a play for placement on the left hash mark.
They got up to the line of scrimmage and had running back Adrian Peterson run to the left side of the field. Walsh was happy that they were able to move to the left side of the field, but didn’t think moving to the left was what was going through Peterson’s mind, especially since he nearly broke the run for a touchdown.
“I’m comfortable the most on that left hash in that medium-30-range distance, and they do a nice job of communicating with me where I would like it. (Peterson) broke a run and I’m sure that was the last thought going through his mind when he was breaking the run,” Walsh said. “So he did a good job of setting it up.”
Peterson was able to gain 9 yards on the run, which put the Vikings in position for the 36-yard attempt, just 3 more yards than an extra point and when he got the chance Walsh put the ball through the middle of the uprights for the win.