Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had a rough start to the 2015 season. He struggled kicking throughout the preseason, which resulted in him going 5-for-11 on field goals, including a game against the Oakland Raiders in which he went 0-for-3.
He was receiving a lot of criticism heading into the 2015 regular season and a lot of fans were already calling for the Vikings to cut him or bring in competition. That carried over following a Week 1 loss on Monday Night Football when he went 1-for-2 on field goals. He improved a little, though, as he went 5-for-7 the next three weeks.
Walsh then decided to head back to Georgia, where he went to college, during the team’s bye week as a way to get away form everything and get back to the basics of kicking the ball. He ended up going 13-for-13 in the four weeks following the bye week and he was starting to look like a new kicker.
The rest of the regular season went pretty well for him and he did not miss a single field goal at home during the regular season, though he did miss three extra points. He went 34-for-39 on the season, which meant he made more field goals than any other kicker in the NFL. But that’s not what his 2015 season is remembered for. Whenever someone thinks of Walsh’s 2015 season they think of the 27-yard field goal he missed wide left that would have sent the Vikings into the second round of the playoffs.
“It’s one of those things that comes with the territory,” Walsh said when asked if it’s frustrating that his season was defined by that one kick. “It’s our job to go out there and sometimes win games and help our team. We could have one or two plays that we have all game and one of those games could be the game winner.
“I mean, I’m over it. It’s in the past. It’s something that I took the time to think about and move on from it. I’m one of the better kickers in the league and that’s not just how I feel, the stats say that and that’s how I come out here and approach every day.”
Walsh truly seems to be moving on from that kick, even though he has constantly been asked about it since returning to training camp. His goal now is just to go out on the practice field and try to become more consistent. He says he can tell that he has gotten stronger each year since entering the NFL in 2012, but now his main focus is accuracy and consistency.
It’s paying off as he has looked great out at practice so far, and now he is just waiting for his chance to do it in a game. It will be a chance to finally get the weight of that miss off his back and truly move on from it once and for all.
“You always look forward to the next chance as a kicker,” he explained. “Sometimes you don’t know when it’s coming and you can go a week without getting a field goal attempt, or you can have five or six in one game. You just always have to be ready and that’s just kind of the way the job pans out.”
Walsh isn’t the only one who believes that he is moved on from the way the 2015 season ended. Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer can also see it. He said that his kicker has hit about 92 or 93 percent of the 250 field goals that he kicked during the spring practices. He’s tweaked a couple things this offseason and Priefer is hoping that will really pay off when it comes time to make a kick.
“Blair is a guy that believes in his abilities and he’s humble enough to know that he has to work on those abilities and that’s why he’s such a great kid,” Priefer said. “He’s a coachable guy and that’s what makes him one of the top kickers in the league, in my opinion. His talent and his work ethic are second to none and he’s going to keep working to get better and be successful for us.”
Everyday Walsh works to prove his worth to his teammates and coaches, and now he is just patiently waiting to line up for his next in-game field goal attempt so he can finally move on form his last miss.