Even in the thrill of victory, Seahawks feel for Vikings kicker Blair Walsh
Jan 10, 2016, 4:25 PM | Updated: 6:46 pm
MINNEAPOLIS – One team’s improbable victory is another team’s heart-breaking collapse.
And after the Seahawks escaped with a 10-9 win in Sunday’s wild-card game when Minnesota missed a chip-shot field goal, no one was more heart-broken than Vikings kicker Blair Walsh.
Seattle’s Steven Hauschka, echoing a sentiment shared by several teammates, couldn’t help but put himself in his counterpart’s shoes.
“Feel for Blair,” he said. “That’s a tough way to have the season end.”
Is it ever.
The Vikings were headed for what seemed like a certain victory, having driven to Seattle’s 10-yard line to set up a 27-yard field-goal attempt that would have put Minnesota up by two points with just over 20 seconds left. Seattle had no timeouts remaining, which means all Walsh needed to do to send the Vikings to the divisional round was convert the football equivalent of a gimme putt, an attempt that was 5 yards shorter than a point-after try.
It wasn’t solely because Walsh’s kick hooked wide left that the Seahawks pulled off another improbable playoff win and the Vikings were dealt a stunning loss, but everyone will remember it that way.
“Obviously he’s going to be devastated, but it never comes down to one play,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We would say the same thing for our kicker if he missed it. Unfortunately for him, all the weight is going to be on him. There were a lot of plays out there that we could have made that would have made it a lot less close. I feel for him.”
Walsh, 26, has been one of the NFL’s more accurate kickers since entering the league as a sixth-round pick out of Georgia in 2012, converting 85.2 percent of his attempts. He made the Pro Bowl and was named a first-team All-Pro as a rookie. His 34 made field goals this season (on 39 attempts) led the league, though he missed four of his 39 extra-point tries.
Walsh had made all three of his attempts Sunday before his final miss, connecting from 22, 43 and 47 yards. That was no small feat considering how the sub-zero temperatures took some of the flight out of the ball, making longer attempts even more challenging.
“He’s a great player,” Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas said. “He played great all game and that is just football. He scored nine points for them and they were leading the entire game because of him.”
The snap from Kevin McDermott was fine, but replays of Walsh’s miss show that punter Jeff Locke put the ball down with the laces facing inward, which is not how place-kickers prefer it.
Walsh said he wasn’t sure whether the snap was bad or not. He took the blame either way.
“You have to look back at the film, but I can tell you this: It is my fault,” he said. “I know Jeff did his job and Kevin did his job, and I’m the only one who didn’t do my job, so that is on me.”
Hauschka was warming up in the event that the Seahawks got a shot at a last-second attempt of their own, so he didn’t see Walsh’s miss. But he said that the ball has a tendency to hook hard when it’s kicked on the laces.
“He’s a heck of a kicker,” Haushcka said. “I hope he keeps his head up.”