Here we go again, Vikings fans.
Three years after Blair Walsh went wide left against Seattle to end a playoff season and start the unraveling of a franchise’s kicking game, rookie Daniel Carlson went wide left twice against Seattle on Friday to give everyone another reason besides the offensive line to worry about a promising season set to begin in just 15 days.
“There’s always a little nerves, but it wasn’t anything mental,” Carlson said after the 21-20 come-from-behind preseason win at U.S. Bank Stadium. “Just some technique and some things I need to continue working on. Put this behind me, but learn from it.
“Every kicker is going to have misses. Luckily this is preseason and we won. It wasn’t the end of the world.”
It might not have ended the world, but it sure ticked off Carlson’s coach, Mike Zimmer.
In between Carlson’s two misses from 42 yards, the Vikings scored a touchdown to take a 6-0 lead. But rather than send Carlson in for the 33-yard PAT, Zimmer went for two. The pass failed.
Asked after the game if he just wanted to work on two-point conversions in the preseason, Zimmer emphatically said, “No.”
Asked if it was to send Carlson a message, Zimmer said, “If he’s going to miss them, I’m going to let him know we’re going to go for two.”
Some would consider that a costly message because it very well could ratchet up the pressure on a rookie kicker even more. Zimmer essentially said he was too low on patience at that particular moment.
“I wasn’t in a good mood,” he said.
On Jan. 10, 2016, Walsh missed from 27 yards with 22 seconds left in a 10-9 wild-card loss at TCF Bank Stadium. The temperature that day was minus-6 with a minus-25 windchill.
It created a hot seat for Vikings kickers that has yet to cool off. Walsh lasted only nine more games before his implosion gave way to Kai Forbath.
Forbath lasted 25 games, but missed eight PATs, which led to General Manager Rick Spielman drafting Carlson in the fifth round with the highest pick used on a kicker in franchise history.
Forbath put up a good offseason fight with Carlson but ultimately lost the competition when he clanged a 41-yarder off the right upright in the second preseason game. He was released the next day.
Carlson, who had made both field goal attempts in the season-opening win at Denver, was handed the job.
“Any time coming in as a kicker to a new team, it’s kind of a pressure situation,” he said. “You’re going to have a lot of eyes on you. For me, especially as a rookie, I do feel I need to prove myself to the team. Nothing special. Just doing my job consistently and winning the trust of the team.”
He has a lot of ground to make up in that area. Starting with Zimmer.
When Carlson spoke to reporters after the game, he wasn’t aware that Zimmer had already told the media that he went for two to send Carlson a sign.
“I didn’t know whether it was or not,” said Carlson, who didn’t talk to Zimmer during the game. “That’s possible.”
There isn’t a kicker who’s ever missed a kick who has admitted he missed because the pressure got to him. Carlson said repeatedly that, no, the pressure didn’t get to him.
“Just technique,” he said. “Coming across the ball a little more rather than coming straight up through it.”
Carlson did make a PAT with 9:09 left. The crowd seemed to cheer sarcastically.
“I’m not going to let any one kick define me, good or bad,” Carlson said.
Vikings fans familiar with kicking woes can only hope that’s the case. Because, for now at least, the fact Carlson missed not one, but two kicks in similar fashion has an all-too-familiar feel.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org