Blair Walsh’s last outing featured one made field, no misses and four successful extra points against the Houston Texans.
That shouldn’t be big news, but with some of the struggles the kicker has endured after the missed 27-yard field goal that almost certainly would have advanced the Minnesota Vikings to the second round of the playoffs last year, Walsh’s performances have been under a microscope this year. He is now 9-for-12 on field goals with two missed extra points.
Perhaps the bye week was more beneficial for Walsh over any other Viking, a potentially needed mental break.
“I think the bye week is good for everybody to be quite honest with you. Blair is no different,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. “I thought he played really well against Houston. It’s always nice sometimes to maybe keep that momentum going in the right direction. But he hit the ball well.”
Priefer said Walsh kicked once on his own during the bye week and has kicked well in the practices this week, but admitted the Vikings will need Walsh to perform well in the final 11 games and however long the Vikings can navigate a potential playoff run.
But questions remain surrounding Walsh. Is he past the early-season struggles? And how will the Vikings know if that is the case?
“I think because he’s been around here, I know him quite well,” Priefer said. “I think he is past the bad things that have happened to him, not only last year but this year as well. He’s learned from it. The good thing about Blair is he might miss one, but he’s going to come back and normally he’ll make the next one. We’ve just got to be more consistent and limit the times where he doesn’t make them.”
ROAD RASH GONE?
As the Vikings return from their bye week, they are preparing to play three of their next four games on the road – at Philadelphia on Sunday, at Chicago on Halloween night and at Washington on Nov. 13.
Lucky for them, like in so many other areas, the Vikings have learned to win on the road under head coach Mike Zimmer.
“We execute. It doesn’t matter where you play or who you play, you execute and you play better that day, it doesn’t matter where you play,” Zimmer said. “That’s our mentality.”
In Zimmer’s first season, the Vikings were 2-6 on the road, but the results have improved. Last year, they were 5-3 on the road and this year they are 2-0 so far.
Defensive coordinator George Edwards believes that Zimmer’s consistent talks about playing smart situational football have helped.
“I think Coach Zimmer has done a great job since he has been here talking about situational football, and no matter where we’re at, no matter what the situations are - whether it’s the crowd noise or whatever - we try to have them prepared for that before we go into that situation,” Edwards said. “They know going in exactly what we’ve got to get accomplished, how we’re going to have to accomplish it, and being able to adjust once you get into the game when something goes differently.”
RUNNING GAME PROGRESSING?
In the last two games, the Vikings have rushed for a combined 200 yards. Prior to that, they had rushed for a combined 153 yards in their first three games.
Players and coaches admit there is still plenty of work left in the running game.
“Yeah, it’s still a work in progress. We’ve still got to get better there,” Zimmer said on Friday. “… Our biggest thing right now is to eliminate the negative-yardage runs. If we can do that, then I think the running game will be better, but we’ve had some second-and-14s or it’s third-and-9 because we get a 3-yard loss on second down or whatever it is. Those are situations we’re trying to eliminate.”
The Vikings are still ranked last in the NFL in rushing.