Blair Walsh tied his career-high five field goals in a single game Sunday night against the New York Giants. It was the third time in the Minnesota Vikings kicker’s career that he had done it and the second time this season – the other time came during his rookie season in 2012.
Two of his attempts Sunday night were from more 50 yards away, which are difficult to make under normal circumstances, but when the air temperature is below freezing, like it was Sunday night, it’s even more difficult. The ball becomes harder in cold air and does not fly as far.
But Walsh felt as though he had to embrace the challenge.
“It was one of those games where we just had a lot of attempts and just got to embrace the fact that you’re kicking a lot, got a lot of attempts and my line did a great job blocking all night,” he said. “They got some guys who can rush very well, so they were putting me in a great situation. And the snapper and holder did their job, as they always do, and made my life easy.”
Walsh is now tied for the NFL lead with 32 field goals made, and that includes making 6 of 8 from 50 yards and beyond this season, but his 86 percent overall is about middle of the pack in the NFL.
Walsh was in what was arguably the worst slump of his career earlier this season and there was some speculation about how long the Vikings would stick with him. The coaching staff always said that their kicker remained confident, but after he missed field goals and extra points you could tell the coaches were starting to get frustrated.
They continued to stick with him, however, and Walsh’s confidence once again seems to be where it once was.
That showed Sunday night after he missed an extra point. The miss came after safety Harrison Smith returned an interception for a touchdown, and Walsh admitted that he was not as prepared to kick in that moment as he should have been as the touchdown took him by surprise.
“Didn’t hit it the way I wanted to,” he said. “It was a sudden change in that game and I need to do a better job of being prepared at all times and sort of just mentally being a little bit tougher. I’ll get better and I’ll make that kick next time.”
Even though it was still a miss, and a kick he should have had, he did not let it snowball and become something worse. That missed attempt came in the second quarter of the game and he attempted seven kicks after it, making them all.
There were times earlier in the season where Walsh let one miss turn into multiples, but he was able to quickly get over this one and continue to do his job at a high level.
“You know what, it is tough, but like I just kind of mentioned, you have to be mentally tough and kind of learn from it and move on,” he said. “I just had a feeling we were going to get more attempts throughout the game, so you can’t beat yourself up about it.”
Walsh has not missed a field goal attempt since Week 12 against the Atlanta Falcons. He has now made seven in a row and the Vikings are going to need him to continue to play at a high level as they head to Green Bay this weekend to take on the Packers for the division title.
Kickers always prefer to kick inside a dome because there is no wind or other outside influences, but after spending two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, Walsh feels he is ready to step up at Lambeau Field if called on.
“They’re both very tough,” he said when comparing the two stadiums. “The conditions are very similar, the fact that they’re both windy and it’s not always easy to predict. The only thing with Lambeau is it’s a little more consistent in which way the wind blows. It’s a little more closed in; our stadium is a little more open. It’s doable.”