For the last two seasons, the Vikings led the league in two categories…bad judgment and horrible luck. Think about it. They beg Brett Favre to come back, and he stinks. Randy Moss returns (at the cost of a third round draft pick), and manages to diss the team’s caterer (“I wouldn’t feed that to my dog” and throw Childress under the bus right before a Monday night game. See ya! The Dome collapses, Briant McKinnie eats his way out of training camp, Donavan McNabb thinks that bounce passes are legal, Adrian Peterson gets injured in a meaningless game, Joe Webb wins a costly game that keeps us from the RG III draft pick, and the team blows four fourth quarter leads. I could go on and on. The Vikings desperately needed a little luck in this year’s draft, and because Andrew wasn’t available, they found it in the sixth round.
The Vikings’ fortunes changed the minute they drafted a leprechaun sized five-foot-nine kicker with the 175th overall pick in the 2012 draft. His name is Blair Walsh, and he may do more to transform the team’s immediate destiny than anyone else on the roster. That’s because he can consistently boot kickoffs out of the end zone, and has hit field goals in practice from 70 yards out. He is part of a draft day pot of gold for the Vikes that included left tackle Matt Kalil, safety Harrison Smith and speedy (4.2 forty time) cornerback Josh Robinson. All are good players who made positive contributions in the Vikings 26-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it was Walsh who put the boot to the hoodoo hex of the team’s recent history of mayhem, woe, and fourth quarter collapses.
When Chris Cook let Cecil Shorts haul in a 39-yard wounded duck touchdown pass from Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert for a 23-20 lead with 20 seconds left, thousands of fans of the purple and gold flocked from the Metrodome muttering “same stuff, different day,” or something to that effect. They might have beaten the traffic, but they missed Christian Ponder complete crisp passes to Devin Aromashodu and Kyle Rudolph to set up a 55-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in regulation.
A 55 yarder! Are you serious? From a rookie kicker who only made only 21 field goals out of 35 attempts in his senior year at Georgia? It was the blast heard around the state. Walsh’s bomb tied Ryan Longwell for the longest field goal in Vikings’ history, and it launched the game into overtime. However, it was after his 38-yard attempt on the team’s first drive in overtime that I knew things had turned around. “With the Vikings’ luck, he’ll miss the easy one after making the 55 yarder,” I proclaimed to my long suffering family as he was lining it up. “Jinx!” they all cried, and we all looked on in horror. Jinx indeed! The kick is up…and it’s straight down the middle. Walsh then shanks a knuckler on his kickoff, but special teams contains the return and against all odds, the defense stops the Jags on 4th down. The Vikes win 26-23. No doubt about it, if I can’t jinx the purple, things have definitely changed for the better.