Three takeaways from Sunday’s Vikings-Titans game
1. The Vikings have painted themselves into a corner with Blair Walsh. Their decision to give their kicker a contract extension after 2014, the worst season of his career statistically, raised some eyebrows at the time. But based on Walsh’s body of work — and remember, this was before his big miss in the playoffs — it was not a bad investment, unless you are totally against giving a seven-figure salary to kickers. A little more than a year later, though, the long-term extension has the Vikings in a jam. His three misses against the Titans suggest that Walsh hasn’t escaped his own head after his infamous “wide left” miss, even after a solid preseason. And cutting him would mean they would have to eat more than $3.3 million on next year’s salary cap. But if he continues to struggle, the Vikings will have to move on despite that hit. The question is what might be the breaking point?
2. Wideout Cordarrelle Patterson will have a role on offense early this season. Whether that role expands or decreases will be up to him. The coaching staff was urged this offseason to get the 2013 first-round draft pick involved in the offense again. But if you listen to coach Mike Zimmer, it sounds as if Patterson has garnered a role by merit. “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender,” Zimmer said. “That’s what he’s done. He’s earned playing time. It hasn’t been like, ‘OK, let’s just put him in there.’ ” Patterson was on the field for five offensive snaps, five more than he had in the final seven weeks last season. He touched the ball twice on offense, picking up a first down on an end-around and making a nice catch just shy of the sticks on a third-quarter field-goal drive. Patterson probably still lacks polish, but in the right role he can help this team.
3. Shaun Hill didn’t do anything in Nashville to throw away the starting quarterback job. But it probably is time for the Vikings to make the switch to Sam Bradford, the guy they traded a pair of premium draft picks away to get. Among Hill’s 18 completions on 33 attempts were some good throws and in the second half he led three field-goal drives of at least 40 yards, and he did it without a reliable running game. Most important, he did not turn the ball over in a game that turned on takeaways. But this 236-yard performance probably was the best-case scenario for the career clipboard-holder. To give the Vikings their best shot against the Packers on Sunday night, they will have to get Bradford comfortable with a large package of plays but not the whole playbook. That was a lot to ask in eight days, but doing it in 15 days is realistic. If they can, it’s time to hand over the huddle to him.