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Bleacher Report – Vikings

4 thoughts: Linebackers collide, turning point, Blair Walsh’s latest miss

By Derek Wetmore

The Vikings sprinted out to a 5-0 start and quickly became everybody’s darling in NFL power rankings.

Since then, they’re 0-4 and have been outplayed twice (Philadelphia and Chicago) and lost two close games (Detroit and now Washington).

This column presents 4 thoughts from Sunday’s loss:

1. Blair Walsh missed another extra point and I’m not sure anyone has any answers any more.

We found out last week that Blair Walsh himself had run out of answers. He was critical of the media for asking the same questions over and over, and said that he’d continue the interview if somebody could come up with an original question other than ‘Why didn’t it go in?’

I don’t think that was a reflection of his personality, I think that clearly he was at his wit’s end and frustrated by the constant drumbeat of the narrative that he won’t come through with kicks in big moments.

If that was his reaction then, with the cameras on, he couldn’t have been thrilled privately this week when the Vikings tried out a half-dozen kickers to see if any was good enough to take his job. Ultimately they decided that Walsh was their kicker and they’d stick with him.

When asked why the Vikings auditioned several other kickers, head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t hide any of his cards, answering the question with a question of his own. “You haven’t been watching all year?”

It seems that with every passing week, the numbers of Vikings fans who want Blair Walsh as their team’s kicker is shrinking. Obviously, though, fans don’t make the decisions. The Vikings will have to make that decision.

Blair Walsh has now converted 15 of his 19 extra point attempts this year. The Vikings are the worst team in the league in that measure, at 80 percent, according to TeamRankings.com.

And obviously the extra points are not the only issue, nor is this the first time problems have cropped up for the Vikings’ talented but troubled kicker. He’s also missed four field goals this season. He missed a field goal from 27 yards in last year’s playoffs that would have sent the Vikings to the next round. He also two field goals and an extra point in a 23-20 loss to the Broncos last season, just months after signing his 4-year, $14 million contract extension.

Here’s what GM Rick Spielman told reporters about Walsh at the midpoint of last season: “Blair is going through a little bit of a slump here right now. But I think there’s no question he is our kicker. I know coach [Mike Zimmer] made that statement. And Blair is working extremely hard to try to get through this. And we’re doing everything we can, with [special teams coordinator Mike] Priefer on our end, to get through this.”

“People forget [that] Blair, a couple years ago, he’s a young kicker that was in a Pro Bowl,” Spielman said.

You have to figure with that missed extra point that this is Blair Walsh’s last game with the Vikings.

— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) November 13, 2016

Clayton is an NFL insider, and the guess here is that he’s not the only one thinking that after the most recent miss.

2. Why aren’t the Vikings better in short yardage situations or at scoring in the red zone?

In the second quarter the Vikings had the ball at Washington’s 1-yard line, and two consecutive Matt Asiata run plays were stuffed for no gain. At last, on the third try, he plunged into the end zone.

That was the first offensive touchdown the Vikings have scored in the first half since Week 5 (a win against the Texans), according to the broadcast.

Later, on 2nd-and-1, Jerick McKinnon looked like he’d have a first down, but he cut back and looked for a wider running lane, and instead lost a yard on the play.

Later still, with 1st-and-goal to go, a Matt Asiata run went for two yards, and later a pass failed to connect with Zach Line before the Vikings eventually punched in a touchdown to Adam Thielen.

Those examples highlight the bothersome trend of not being to score in the red zone this year, although the Vikings took care of that on Sunday (2-for-2 in the red zone). What’s problematic is taking a struggling offensive line and a third-string running back and hoping the short yardage problems of late somehow get fixed.

3. Things haven’t been the same since somebody in the Vikings locker room took a bunch of stuffed animals and spread them around the floor, in various states of being un-stuffed.

File this one in the category of ‘I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.’

With apologies to Mike Zimmer, who said he felt he was defamed by the story spiraling out of control, it doesn’t really matter who played that motivational tactic. The intended message reportedly was that Fat Cats Get Slaughtered.

After only four weeks it almost doesn’t seem like that was from the same season.

I can’t prove that incident had even a 0.5% impact on this season. But it’s fun to pretend it did. And nobody can prove that it didn’t have a nontrivial impact.

4. The Vikings had their two primary linebackers collide with each other in the first quarter, and it may have been the most damaging play of the game for Minnesota.

Eric Kendricks (hip) was lost, and Anthony Barr, who left briefly but returned, was later beaten for a touchdown by tight end Vernon Davis.

Already down nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn, I’m curious this week to hear about how that impacted Mike Zimmer’s thinking in the defensive playcalling.

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The post 4 thoughts: Linebackers collide, turning point, Blair Walsh’s latest miss appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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