Among the lingering concerns Vikings fans have in spite of a 4-0 start, these three stand out: the raft of injuries that never seems to end; the play of the offensive line, which was better last week but has yet to establish consistency; and the kicking of Blair Walsh.
If pressed, I bet a lot of Vikings fans would put Walsh at the top of that list. The other two could slowly and cumulatively put a damper on the Vikings’ season; a Walsh miss at the wrong time could put an end to it — just as it did in 2015 against Seattle. If the hope was that Walsh would rebound from that bad kick after a mostly good season, that has simply not happened. His confidence looks shaken, and the missed kicks have followed.
Interestingly, a Wall Street Journal piece (subscription) suggests Walsh isn’t alone in those struggles. In a story with the headline suggesting kickers have “post-traumatic miss disorder,” the Journal looks at seven other kickers in NFL history who have missed similarly important playoff kicks (including, yes, Gary Anderson).
It found that kickers who were 80.2 percent accurate for their careers before the big miss hit on just 65.5 percent of their field goals the following season.
Walsh this season has missed three field goals and two extra points already. None have cost the Vikings, but his struggles have been enough for head coach Mike Zimmer to respond, “no, not yet” when asked this week if the Vikings were bringing in other kickers to try out.
If there is any solace for Walsh and Vikings fans in the midst of a trying time and in the face of the Journal’s evidence that more could be on the way, it is two-fold.
First, Jan Stenerud was among the kickers listed as missing a big playoff kick, and he rebounded from a bad season the following year to have a Hall of Fame career.
Second, Walsh has already proven he can come back from shaky times. He was only a 60 percent kicker his final year of college before having a tremendous first year for the Vikings in 2012. And after missing nine kicks in 2014, he was much better last year (you know, until the 27-yarder against Seattle).
Translation: Walsh is hardly doomed. He has a chance to write his own history — even if the history of those who missed before him looks pretty bleak, at least in the short-term.