ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Midway through the second quarter of tonight’s win over the Cowboys, punter Jeff Locke banged up his ankle a little bit and had to head to the sideline after a punt. That was problematic because rookie Eric Kendricks got flagged for holding, forcing a Vikings do-over.
Buckle up your chinstrap, Blair Walsh, get on out there and boot it.
Walsh hasn’t punted on a regular basis since high school, but the Vikings ask him to practice that skill every once in a while in the event of an injury. That injury came tonight, so Walsh, a kicker by trade, let one rip.
“I just tried to punt it as far as I possibly could,” Walsh said.
Walsh boomed the punt 50 yards. But Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley got some running room and some blocks, returning the punt 40 yards. That big punt return set up the second Cowboys touchdown of the night.
After the game, I playfully asked Walsh if he out-kicked his coverage.
“I have no idea. That’s the first time I’ve had to analyze my punt in the middle of a game,” Walsh said. “I thought it was a pretty good punt. But if they want to be critical, ‘Suuuuure’ is what I have to say.”
It was a pretty good punt, but Walsh will be judged on what he does on field goals. And his struggles continued tonight, as he missed another one.
Walsh hit from 28 yards then 45, but he missed a 43-yard attempt, too.
“I’m close. I’m really close to being where I want to be at,” Walsh said. “I want the 43-yarder back. I’ve got to do a better job of putting it away there. But I hit the ball well and I think that showed throughout the game.”
Coach Mike Zimmer said after last week’s game that he was concerned about Walsh, who missed all three of his field-goal attempts. But tonight, Zimmer said the concern is gone. He knows Walsh can get the job done.
“I wish he would have hit them all tonight, but I thought he hit the ball good, he kicked off good,” Zimmer said. “I told him after he missed the one, ‘Quit thinking so much and just kick the dang ball.’ He said, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘You’re too good for that, so just kick it. Quit thinking.’ These kickers want to fade it to the right. Bubba Watson.”