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Blair Walsh: 'A strange two weeks'

12/15/2014

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Local dailies have touted it as a slump. Yours truly felt compelled to note Sunday that the Minnesota Vikings have no concerns about place-kicker Blair Walsh, who has converted only one of his past six field goals over two games.

Kicking is among the many foreign languages of football, so there can be a barely-decipherable line between a player who is struggling and one who has been victimized by a confluence of unfortunate factors. The question in these parts: Where does Walsh's two-game stretch fit in?

Three of Walsh's misses have been from 53 yards or longer. The other was from 39 yards, and a 26-yarder was blocked. His one conversion came from 20 yards.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had enough confidence in Walsh to let him attempt from 68 yards on the final play of a 16-14 loss to the Detroit Lions, choosing that option over a Hail Mary pass. Walsh's attempt was a few yards short, not surprisingly, and Zimmer dismissed questions about his confidence in Walsh moving forward.

For his part, Walsh said Monday that "it's been a strange two weeks, honestly" and added: "I don't think I'm hitting the ball poorly, but my results say otherwise."

Walsh said he felt so good during pregame warmups Sunday at Ford Field that he extended his usual routine to about 69 yards, attempting his final kick from almost the exact spot where he tried the potential game winner. The practice kick sailed through the uprights, and Walsh said he lobbied Zimmer for the end-game opportunity.

The NFL doesn't officially keep track of length of field goal attempts, but it's safe to say that Walsh's was one of the longest (serious) kicks in league history. The chart, provided by John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information, lists the five longest attempts since ESPN started independently tracking in 2001.

Sebastian Janikowski's 76-yard attempt in 2008 was viewed mostly as a shot toward then-owner Al Davis from lame duck coach Lane Kiffin. The next two attempts, 71 yards by Phil Dawson and 69 yards by Mason Crosby, were "free kicks."

So in the big picture, Walsh followed a 82-for-93 start to his career with a 1-for-6 stretch. It hardly seems time to panic.

"You're not in this profession to make excuses for yourself," Walsh said. "You've got to hold yourself to that standard and hold yourself to a higher standard for performing, especially when you've done it before."