By now, you know that Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal, what most would call a chip shot, which would have knocked off the Seattle Seahawks and given the Vikings their first playoff win since 2009. It was not to be, and fans wondered aloud how, after easily knocking in three longer field goals earlier in the game, Walsh missed such a gimme. We may never know for sure, but we have five pretty good guesses as to why the Seahawks are still playing and the Vikings are sitting at home.
Walsh Kicked in Warm Climates For Most of His Career
Walsh grew up in Boca Raton, Florida, far from the frozen tundra he stepped on yesterday at the University of Minnesota. He kicked at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale, then committed to Georgia for college, where his Saturdays were usually filled with sunshine and sweaty SEC fans. And let us not forget that Walsh was drafted in 2012, and the Vikings played beneath a dome until 2013.
So although Walsh has kicked in cold conditions before, his home turf has always been warm.
Laces Out, Bro!
Even the most casual football fan knows, thanks mostly to Ace Ventura, that if the holder can’t position the laces of the football to face away from the kicker, everything is doomed. Jeff Locke was the man charged with getting the laces out, and he failed. From the moment Locke caught the snap and placed the ball down, the white laces prominently stared Walsh in the face. The kick was bound to fail. And fail it did.
The Football Slipped
It wasn’t enough for the laces to be facing in. That wouldn’t have been cruel enough. Also, the ball slipped forward when Locke placed it on the ground, creating an undesirable angle for Walsh’s foot. Not only was Walsh dealing with a frozen field, minus 2-degree weather and grinning laces, his ball was thrown off its axis. Those factors would defeat even the greatest of kickers.
Walsh Hadn’t Kicked Since the End of the Third Quarter
Walsh’s final field goal before the fateful miss came with two seconds left in the third quarter. After he kicked off, he sat the entire fourth quarter in frigid temperatures before trotting out with 26 ticks left on the clock. In other words, my man was cold, both mentally and physically. He sat for 15:28 of game time, which for a nationally televised NFL playoff game can translate to over 30 minutes of real time. Kickers need to get into a rhythm like the rest of their teammates do. Sitting that long in brutally cold weather could only have hurt Walsh’s chances at making that kick, no matter how short it was.
His NFL Combine Scouting Report May Have Predicted The Missed Kick
Four years ago, after Walsh attended the NFL Scouting Combine, nfl.com broke down his strengths and weaknesses heading in to the 2012 NFL Draft. The plusses? Walsh was said to be able to “let it rip” from 60 yards or more, and was “most reliable in mid-range kicks.” His weaknesses, though, may have predicted the story of the missed kick four years before it happened.
“Walsh has been inaccurate at times when he tries to drive the ball too hard,” the scouting report says. Walsh missed 14 field goals his senior year at Georgia, presumably because he tried to blast the ball when he didn’t need to. That certainly looks to have been the case yesterday in Minnesota, as Walsh lasered the football when he only needed 27 yards. Thus, wide left.