Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Blair Walsh's first missed field goal attempt could have been a costly one

Posted by: under Vikings, NFC, Percy Harvin, Vikings special teams Updated: October 4, 2012 - 2:24 PM

Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer wasn’t pleased with the 46-yard field goal attempt that rookie Blair Walsh pulled left with 13:15 to play in last Sunday’s game at Detroit.

If Walsh had made that kick, the Vikings would have led 23-6 with their defense playing well. Instead, the miss gave Detroit hope.

“I called him over after that play,” Priefer said. “I wasn’t mad. Because he’s nine of 10. You can’t get mad at what he’s done for us this year. And he kicked off so well and really helped our team win that game. But I said, ‘Do you realize the situation?’ He had already thought about it.

“Now you’re up three scores with 10 minutes to go in the game. The way our defense was playing, I just felt good about us winning that game at that point. But then you’re [only] up 14. And that’s a whole different deal. Two scores is obviously not as good as three scores. Hopefully he’ll grow from that and learn from it and move on.”

Priefer said he expressed his discontent in a calm manner, making sure to get his point across without getting too deep into Walsh’s head.

“I was disappointed for him, disappointed for us,” Priefer said. “And he knows that. He’s a smart guy. He doesn’t have to be told when he does something wrong. We watched it on tape together on Monday morning. He knew what he did wrong.”

Priefer said Walsh got a little too close to the ball on the miss. “Probably lunged into it a little bit and then wrapped his foot around it. He’ll do that every now and then in practice. So we’ll work in here on that.”

Need a break?

Priefer was tempted to use a timeout just 12 seconds into last Sunday’s win. After Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff 105 yards for a score, Priefer was a bit concerned that his special teams players might be a bit tired and perhaps overly excited for the ensuing kickoff.

“I’ve had it happen before,” Priefer said. “You can give up a long return after a big play like that. Because many of the same guys who are on the return team are on the kickoff phase as well.”

Priefer also thought about asking for a timeout after Marcus Sherels’ delivered his 77-yard punt return score in the third quarter.

“But I already had a sub for Marcus,” Priefer said. “And then I turn around and there he is. I told him, ‘I’ve got somebody for you [on kick coverage].’ He goes, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He wasn’t even breathing hard. That’s what kind of a special kid he is. He was ready to go on the next play.”

Of course, there was little to fear for the Vikings' kickoff coverage team Sunday. Walsh produced touchbacks on all five of his kickoffs.

Priefer also took note of the five-man escort that Sherels had for the final 25 yards or so of his touchdown return.

“That was pretty cool,” Priefer said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. I was really fired up about that.”

Percy praise

Here’s the latest dip into the fountain of praise for Harvin, of whom Priefer had this to say: “Offensively and special teams, Percy Harvin is so special. He’s a special athlete and a special young man. He plays hard. He practices hard. He does everything full-go. And that’s the kind of guy you love to coach. No matter what he does out there, he’s going to make us better.”

Harvin was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September. He leads the NFL in kickoff returns with a 38.3-yard average.

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