AP Pro Football Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — For the second time in a span of about 18 hours, this time at team headquarters instead of the home stadium, Blair Walsh stood in front of his cubicle and spoke to reporters about his now-infamous 27-yard field goal try that went wide left into the wind.
The kick that Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer described as “a chip shot” and one Walsh ought to make.
The kick that could have given the Vikings a win over Seattle in the wild-card playoff game on Sunday.
The kick that will forever overshadow the three others he converted earlier in the subzero cold, the only points Walsh’s team scored against the Seahawks.
“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,” Walsh said. “I know that sounds strange, but I’ll be back next year and I’ll be just as good. I know I will.”
Yes, he still managed a smile. Several of them, actually. The bitter disappointment wasn’t as painfully obvious on Walsh’s face as it was the day before, when he sobbed heavily in the locker room after the game. His comments, still, were heavily laced with culpability. Laces in, left hash, cold ball, stiff wind. None of that ultimately mattered.
He had to make it.
“I’ve got to do better than that,” Walsh said.
His miss was the shortest in the NFL this season, according to STATS research. Jason Myers failed to make a 26-yard field goal for Jacksonville on Nov. 15, but that was blocked. So were three other tries that missed from closer than 30 yards in the league this season. The only other non-blocked failed kicks from inside 30 yards were 29-yard attempts, by Adam Vinatieri for Indianapolis on Sept. 21 and Kyle Brindza for Tampa Bay on Oct. 4.
That’s just seven misses in 250 tries, per STATS.
“It’s unfortunate. Personally, I feel really bad for Blair,” New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski said. “Professionally, it’s just part of the game. We’ve all been there. I’ve seen the best of the best miss kicks.”
Gostkowski was far from alone in extending sympathy and support in various ways to Walsh, who expressed appreciation for the kind words from family members, close friends, teammates and Vikings fans. As for the predictable vitriol targeted toward him through social media, well, Walsh was unfazed.
“The people who are going to say mean stuff? That says a lot about them. And 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,” said Walsh, whose 34 field goals made during the regular season were the most in the NFL.
So he’ll take a belief in the goodness of people into the offseason, along with confidence, determination and that stinging failure.
“It’s important to realize at the end of the day that it’s football,” Walsh said. “There’s plenty of things that people are going through, battling cancer and sickness and other things, that are real adversity.”