For Walsh, it's business as unusual

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2012 - 7:32 AM

His 3-for-3 day with a game-winner seems special, but it's pretty much in keeping with his entire rookie season.

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had just kicked a last-second, playoff-clinching field goal to beat the Packers when he was asked if the season he's having is beyond his "wildest imagination."

The unflappable rookie was about to respond when fellow first-year player Matt Kalil intercepted the question with the most logical of answers.

"Duh," Kalil said. "No question."

Walsh's record-breaking regular season concluded with him going 3-for-3. He hit from 54 yards, 37 yards and from 29 as time expired in a 37-34 victory at Mall of America Field on Sunday. Now, he'll take his Pro Bowl season to Lambeau Field for the rematch in Saturday night's NFC wild-card game.

"I don't know how he does it," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "He makes it look so easy. But even that 29-yarder at the end, I would have shanked that thing into the fifth row."

Walsh finished the season with more records than anyone could have imagined when the sixth-round draft pick replaced veteran Ryan Longwell shortly after the draft.

"I learned a long time ago not to predict what a kicker will do," Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer said. "But people ask, did I think he would have this type of year? And I think, no one has ever had this type of year. So the answer is probably not."

While Priefer talked about the "ice water" in Walsh's veins, Walsh talked about Packers coach Mike McCarthy trying to ice him by calling a timeout right before Walsh attempted his 29-yarder.

"I heard [the whistle] and I knew it didn't count, but I went ahead and kicked it anyway," Walsh said. "They can ice me all they want as far as I'm concerned. I don't care. It's 29 yards. You got to make that no matter what."

Walsh was preparing for a 55-yarder when Adrian Peterson broke off a 26-yard run with less than 24 seconds left.

"At that point, it's, 'Just go out there and hit it,' " Walsh said. "You don't think about any emotions or anything like that. Don't make it more complicated than it is."

Since the season opener against Jacksonville -- when Walsh closed regulation with a 55-yard game-tying field goal and won the game with a 38-yarder in OT -- teammates, fans and even well-known alumni have just assumed that Walsh will make whatever kick he lines up for.

"When they released Longwell, I didn't know what to think," Vikings Hall of Famer Carl Eller said in the winning locker room. "I just thought they were going to go get another kicker. I didn't think they were going to bring in a superstar. And that's what this kid is. To be this consistent and have the range that he has, I think he's bringing a whole new level to the kicker position in the NFL."

AMAZING FOOTWORK

Among the NFL records set by Blair Walsh this season:

• Best percentage by an NFL rookie: 92.1, 35 of 38.

• Most 50-yard field goals by an NFL player: 10. He went 10-for-10. The record was eight.

• Most field goals by an NFL rookie: 35. That also ties the team record set by Gary Anderson in 1998 when he didn't miss until ... well, you know when he missed.

• Points by a Vikings rookie: 141. That's also the second-most by a rookie in NFL history, behind former Bears kicker Kevin Butler (144).

• Most kickoff touchbacks in team history: 53. His 61.6 percentage on kickoff touchbacks also set a rookie NFL record.

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