GREEN BAY, Wis. – Daniel Carlson’s first game at Lambeau Field might be his last.
At least as a Viking.
In one of the worst days for special teams in franchise history, the Vikings had a punt blocked for a touchdown and then watched helplessly as Carlson, their rookie kicker, missed three field-goal attempts wide right, including a 35-yarder as overtime ended in a 29-29 tie with the Packers.
It would be shocking if the Vikings didn’t spend Sunday night strongly considering a move at kicker. Dan Bailey, the most accurate kicker in Cowboys history, is still available, as is — don’t laugh — Kai Forbath, whom the Vikings released in favor of Carlson.
“I don’t know,” coach Mike Zimmer said when asked if he had to make a move at kicker. “It’s too early. [General Manager] Rick [Spielman] and I have barely talked yet. Rick and I will sit down [Monday], and we’ll talk about it.”
As a fifth-round draft pick, Carlson is the highest-drafted kicker in franchise history. He’s got a giant leg, but even he admitted his confidence was gone when he went out to kick the potential game-winner.
“I think that last one was probably more just something with confidence after missing twice earlier,” he said.
Five times in a 5 ½-minute postgame interview, Carlson talked about how he’ll have to look at the film to see what he did wrong, correct it in practice and move on.
But it doesn’t work that way. Not with kickers, which is why they’re the NFL’s vagabond employees. When their confidence disappears, typically they have to relocate for it to have any chance of reappearing. And if it doesn’t, they’re out of a job regardless of age. (See: Walsh, Blair.)
“Obviously, this is my first time in this situation,” Carlson said when asked if he fears being released two games into his NFL career. “I don’t know. It is what it is. I sure hope not because I want to be able to prove to my teammates and these guys here that I can help them. We have a long season ahead and hopefully lots of big wins and big kicks.”
Despite Carlson’s misses from 48 and 49 yards, Zimmer kept his faith in the rookie at the end. With time to take some shots into the end zone, the Vikings ran the ball to put it where Carlson wanted it.
“You know what? Guys are supposed to do their jobs,” Zimmer said. “Maybe we should have thrown the ball into the end zone a couple of times. I believed that [Carlson] was going to make it. They said, ‘Put it in the middle of the field.’ We put it smack dead in the middle of the field, and every day in practice, he drills them. That’s what’s disappointing.”
Carlson, who is 1-for-4 on the season, said he’s never missed three field-goal attempts in a game. His first miss from 48 yards was a good 10, 15 yards off the mark.
“I’m not sure what happened on that one,” he said. “I haven’t missed a hit like that in a while.”
Teammates were supportive after the game. At least in front of the media.
“You can only beat someone down so much, so you stay positive with him,” nose tackle Linval Joseph said. “It’s a good learning experience, and hopefully it won’t happen again.”
“No one feels worse than he does,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “I told him if we’re going to get to where we need to be as a team in February, we’re going to need him making big kicks the rest of the year.”
Carlson said he thinks the kind words will help him regain his confidence.
“It feels terrible because obviously I let my team down,” Carlson said. “But a lot of the guys have come up to me and told me to lift my head up, that we’ll have lots of games and opportunities in the future.”
We’ll see about that.