Week 1 of the 2016 regular season did not start out the way that Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh hoped it would. He is continuing to work on putting the 2015 playoff loss, where he missed a 27-yard field goal that likely would have given his team the win, behind him, but it seems to continue to re-emerge.
Walsh had a similar situation to that one for his first field goal attempt of the 2016 regular season. The Vikings drove down the field and stalled out at the Tennessee Titans’ 19-yard line, leaving Walsh with a 37-yard attempt. He lined up, kicked the ball and hooked it wide left. Just like he did in the playoff game, this time from 10 yards further out.
He had a shot of redemption right before halftime when the offense left him with a 56-yard attempt, a kick that would have tied his career long. He once again hooked it left, but the Titans called a timeout right before the snap, giving him a second chance. Walsh lined up once again, measured up his kick up and hooked it even wider to the left.
The Vikings kicker would get yet another shot at the start of the second half when the offense couldn’t capitalize on a 60-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson. The offense gained a total two yards following that return, which left Walsh with a 50-yard attempt. He was able to split the uprights and seemingly get over the nerves he had to start the game.
Walsh would then make a 33-yard field goal on the Vikings’ next offensive series and it seemed as though he finally had everything figured out. Turned out that wasn’t the case, though, as he ended up missing an extra point attempt following a pick-6 by Eric Kendricks.
Head coach Mike Zimmer isn’t a fan of his kicker’s inconsistent performances and is ready for Walsh to start doing his job on a regular basis.
“It’s disappointing; we miss a field goal, we miss an extra point,” Zimmer began. “He’s going to have to kick them through. He’s our kicker, there’s no question about that, but he needs to kick better.”
Walsh would finish off the rest of the game without any more misses, making a 45-yard field goal, a 30-yard field goal and an extra point. It was the kind of finish he needed to have after struggling early in the game, but he needs to make sure that he turns things around for the remainder of the season. Going 4-for-6 isn’t ideal, and missing the first kick from 37 yards certainly put additional pressure on him. Missing an extra point only increased the pressure.
The Vikings did not bring in any competition for Walsh this offseason, but that could still end up happening if he isn’t able to be more consistent on the field. Zimmer said that Walsh is still the team’s kicker, but that could change in the blink of an eye if the struggles continue.