EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The fallout from Blair Walsh's missed field goal began shortly after the Vikings' 10-9 loss in the NFC wild-card game, when the kicker stood at his locker for about 15 minutes, respectfully answering questions about the 27-yard kick he pulled left, before turning into his locker and sobbing.
It reverberated in the digital sphere for the rest of the day, in the phone calls, texts and tweets landing on Walsh's phone after the game. Some were sophomoric or vitriolic, and Walsh says he will never go back and scroll through his entire mentions feed on Twitter after the game. But many contained words of encouragement, from fans, friends, family members and other kickers who'd been in the same situation, and those were the ones Walsh said will linger with him.
"There's some great kickers in this league that said some nice things to me, and I very much appreciate that," Walsh said. "I know the magnitude of yesterday's situation. I'm not blind to what it meant, and what it meant to this team. But at the same time, you have to be realistic and compassionate toward other people.
"The people who are saying that [negative] stuff are the people who don't matter. There are so many great Vikings fans, and there are so many great people -- you see that they care about Minnesota, and they understand the situations that we're in. The people who are going to say mean stuff, that says a lot about them. I think the people who say kind stuff and go out of their way to be kind toward me, that says a lot about them, as well."
Walsh's miss was just the third by an NFL kicker this season on attempts of 27 yards or shorter, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and it was just the second time Walsh had missed inside of 30 yards in his career. While punter Jeff Locke said he could have done a better job holding for Walsh, getting the laces out before the kick, the fourth-year kicker put the miss squarely on his shoulders.
Walsh, who signed a four-year, $13 million contract extension in July, rebounded from a rocky preseason and troublesome start to lead the league with 34 field goals, hitting six of eight from 50 yards or more. He'd drilled three kicks on Sunday, including a 48-yarder in frigid conditions at TCF Bank Stadium, but said the final kick never felt good coming off his foot.
"It's part of your job," he said. "I knew that coming into this league, that you're going to be put in those pressure situations. If you want to succeed at this level, you're going to have to take those risks and embrace those situations. [Sunday] it just didn't happen for me, and I've got to be better than that. I'm the first one to tell you that. But I'll get over it, and I'll be more confident going into next year. I know it sounds crazy, but I'll work even harder. I had that struggle early on in the year, but finished the year on a streak and a high note. For it to end that way in the playoffs, that was tough. But I'm confident in my abilities, and I know I can continue to be elite at this level. It's tough. Yesterday's tough, but it's part of the job."
So, too, is digesting the mistake in front of reporters, which Walsh did Sunday and again Monday. "I want you guys here when I make those kicks against Chicago and St. Louis to win the game [in November], and you guys have to be here when I miss them. That's just part of it," he said.
As for the social media strafing -- which seems to find any player with a Twitter account -- Walsh said he was more focused on the words of encouragement he'd received.
"A lot of people reached out to me and said nice things, and I'm very appreciative of that -- I really am. That means a lot to me," he said. "But I think it's important that people understand that, as hard as this is, I'm not a charity case. I'm somebody who's really confident in my abilities. I know that sounds strange, but I'll be back next year, and I'll be just as good.
"It's our job, and it's important to realize at the end of the day that it's football. There's plenty of things that people are going through, battling cancer and sickness and other things that are real adversity. This is adversity in your workplace. It's tough, but you have to keep everything in perspective. I have a big faith in the Lord, and I believe that everything happens for a reason. I really do. There's a higher plan that I'm not really aware of right now, but I trust Him and I trust the plan that He has for me, and I'll continue to do my best."