No player took as much heat as Blair Walsh did following the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He missed a 27-yard field goal that would have given his team the lead with 22 seconds left, and likely the win.
There was a lot of anticipation on how he would respond during his first field goal attempt and he was able to step up and respond in his team’s first preseason game. His team got the ball at their own 25-yard line with 47 seconds to go in the first half. They were able to drive down to the Cincinnati Bengals’ 33-yard line, giving Walsh a 51-yard attempt with four seconds left in the half.
It may not have been the greatest kick of his career, as the ball bounced off the crossbar before going through, but it still gave the team a three-point lead heading into halftime.
“He didn’t hit it great, but he hit it well enough,” said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. “He didn’t try to crush it. Sometimes when you try to crush it you pull it left. He just lined up there, did his deal and it went over. Obviously, Blair being a perfectionist, he wanted that to be perfect through the middle of the net, but I told him, ‘Hey it was still worth three points.’ It was a big three points for us.”
While that kick may have been the most difficult one of the game for Walsh, it wasn’t his first. He had an extra point attempt earlier in the game and he was able to drill that as well, which was important since he missed four of them last season.
“He already made a PAT, he crushed the first PAT,” Priefer said. “The next PAT he hit it hard, pulled it a little bit, but hit it hard, and kicked off well. I thought he had a great night.”
Kicking field goals has a lot to do with confidence. The moment a kicker begins question himself or his abilities is when he begins to miss the uprights on a consistent basis. But that never seemed to be a problem with Walsh, even after he missed the short one in the playoffs.
From the very start of organized team activities, he has been saying he is one of the best kickers in the league. That would carry on through minicamp and training camp, and he proved that his confidence hasn’t wavered at all in the Vikings’ first preseason game. An NFL kicker needs to have a short-term memory and it appears Walsh has just that, but having a good first game of the season doesn’t hurt either.
“Any time you can go out there and have a mistake-free game and kind of just do what you know how to do and make kicks, it helps,” Walsh explained. “I didn’t expect anything less. I’m confident in my abilities, in myself and what I’ve shown so far in camp. It’s nice to show that in game time, but you got to use it as a positive and move forward to this week.”
Walsh is still going to have a lot of field goals to kick this season, many in more stressful spots than the one he was in on Friday. He is going to be an important piece of the puzzle if the Vikings hope to improve on their 11-5 season a year ago. The team is going to want to make sure he is at the top of his game, and if Friday was any indication, it appears as though he is.