TCF Bank Stadium made Minnesota Vikings P Jeff Locke ‘a better punter’

Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke had one of the best games of his career Sunday night, and he says that is partially thanks to having to play outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium for two years.

Last Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers was one of the best of Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke’s career, according to him and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. 

“I thought he hit the ball really well,” Priefer said of Locke. “Pinned them inside the 20 five times, from what I understand, and I don’t think they scored on any of those drives.”

Locke punted the ball seven times throughout the game, averaging 39 yards a punt with a net average of 38.7 yards. He did not record any touchbacks Sunday night and, like Priefer said, ended up pinning the Packers inside the 20-yard line five times. 

When looking at the stats, averaging 39 yards a punt does not look all that impressive, but that is mostly because he had one of his punts blocked and it only ended up going 3 yards. But Priefer said the block was not Locke’s fault and even then he got the ball off in timely fashion.

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He booted his first punt from the Minnesota 42-yard line, kicking it 48 yards to the Packers 10-yard line with no return. The blocked punt happened on his second punt of the game, but he did not let it get in his head.

He kicked his next ball 47 yards, from the Vikings 43-yard line to the Green Bay 10-yard line, and once again there was no return. His fourth punt was a 45-yard kick that went from the Vikings 31-yard line to the Packers 24-yard line - his only punt not to be blocked that did not land inside the Green Bay 20.

Locke’s first punt of the second half was a 37-yard kick from his own 49-yard line, which landed at the Packers 14. He then had a 43-yard punt that traveled from the Minnesota 42-yard line to the Packers 15-yard line. His final kick of the night came with just under five minutes to play in the game and it was his longest of the night. He kicked it 50 yards, from the Vikings 41-yard line to the Packers 9-yard line, but oddly enough it may have been his worst kick of the game. 

He was off target when making contact with the ball, causing it to go shorter than he wanted and off to the side. Luckily for him, though, it took a favorable bounce before going out of bounds and ended up rolling inside the 10-yard line. 

“I just didn’t hit it great,” he said. “Didn’t hit it exactly right and I guess you get the bounce every once in awhile, so I will take it.”

Sunday marked the first regular-season home game the Vikings played indoors since 2013 and the difference showed, for Locke at least. The team had played the 2014 and 2015 seasons outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium, which is known for its cold temperatures and swirling winds. 

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Locke and Priefer had both been stressing how difficult it was to punt at TCF Bank Stadium the past two years, and Sunday’s showing may have just proved that.

“You know there’s a big difference. I think so,” Priefer said about kicking at U.S. Bank Stadium versus TCF Bank Stadium. “You talk to any punter or kicker that kicked, like we’ve talked about before, anybody that came to TCF the last two years and kicked there, no one wanted to kick or punt there. It’s a very difficult stadium, especially when November hits. The last two months of the season into January, it’s a very difficult place to kick. We have a great stadium now, any indoor stadium that is easier to punt in. We really like our stadium. The guys are getting used to their sight lines, what they’re picking out in the stands and for our alignments in terms of our punting and directional punting and that sort of thing. I thought Jeff did a real nice job Sunday night.”

But Locke is still thankful for the time he got to kick outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium because he feels as though it has helped him out. The difficult situations the stadium threw at him makes him more confident going into any other stadium now. 

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“TCF was definitely, definitely difficult,” Locke began. “But you also have to kind of look at it as TCF kind of made me a better punter, when you think about it.

“I kind of think of it as I had two years out in that stuff, it’s almost like having five years of experience in a regular stadium. You kind of see everything in a short time.”


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