Blair Walsh knows his missed field goal attempts come with scrutiny, but the Minnesota Vikings are sticking by him despite his two missed field goals and one missed extra point in Sunday’s season-opening 25-16 win.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer backed his kicker on Thursday.
“I would never look for another kicker right now. I know Blair is our guy,” Priefer said. “I think Coach (Mike) Zimmer said it after the game: He’s our guy but he’s got to make those kicks. He was disappointed just as much as we were disappointed that he missed them. Going forward, he’s going to be the guy.”
The snaps were good. The holds were fine. But Walsh missed a 37-yard field goal and a 56-yarder at the end of the first half. He also missed an extra point late in the third quarter.
Walsh said it was “simple stuff” that caused the misses, but said having the chance to redeem himself in the second half with makes from 50, 33, 45 and 30 yards helped his confidence.
“They definitely help. If you go for two and have no more attempts in the game it’s definitely a rougher week on you. … It’s one of those things you move past and happy you got a win,” Walsh said.
Of course, the way last season ended, with Walsh missing a 27-yard field goal that likely would have given the Vikings a playoff win put greater scrutiny on his start to the season. He wasn’t surprised by the scrutiny as he fielded questions Thursday about his struggles on Sunday.
“It’s the nature of the business. You guys say what you want to say and it’s understandable,” he told reporters. “You’ve got to get up here and be accountable for your mistakes and I understand that. We had a nice, good team win. I was part of it in the second half and I was part of a lot of the team wins last year, too, so that’s how I feel going into this game and the rest of the season. I’m confident.”
So is his coach, but Priefer emphasized there is no excuse for missing an extra point.
“He pulled the first one left and I think it was more of a mental thing than anything. I think you’d have to ask him for more elaborate discussion on that,” he said of the missed field goals. “Then the PAT, I think it was a sudden change. He just went out there and he just pushed it right. He’s got to get locked in, he’s got to get focused and he’s got to make those kicks. I told him, ‘There’s no more PATs. There’s no excuse to miss a PAT.’”
Last year, Walsh signed a four-year, $13 million contract, and his $3.25 million average is fifth-highest in the NFL.
[JOIN THE VIKINGS DISCUSSION, CLICK HERE]
By the end of the game, Walsh finished 4-for-6 in field goals (with one of his misses coming from 56), giving him an opportunity to regain his confidence.
“I think for a young man who is still young, he’s had a lot of success in this league,” Priefer said. “He’s kicked a lot of 50-plus field goals – I know he set NFL records, team records, all that sort of thing – but at the end of the day he’s still a placekicker and he needs to have his confidence. And to have the opportunity to make that 50-yarder, that first one, and I’ll be honest with you, he walked out with no doubt in his mind he was going to make that. I think that really helped him get over the hump.”