The good news for Blair Walsh is that he’s not alone.
OK, “good news” is probably too generous. There probably isn’t much that can pick up the Vikings kicker right now, not after he missed a 27-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of Minnesota’s 10-9 wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Working into the wind and with the temperature at minus-6 degrees, Walsh was given laces to kick by holder Jeff Locke and pulled the attempt well left.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer called the kick a “chip shot” and said “he’s got to make it.”
Walsh isn’t the first kicker to let down a coach and fan base during the NFL postseason, and he’s not in bad company, either. Hall of Famers and career record holders have all hooked or pushed or come up short in heartbreaking fashion.
And fellow kickers can sympathize.
“I’m sure he’ll say a similar thing: That we need to make those kicks and we’re paid to do that. But stuff happens,” Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins said. “I missed an extra point yesterday, and I obviously wish I could have that one back. I feel for the guy. I hate watching other guys miss, just because I’ve been there and I know how it feels.”
Here are a few notables from NFL history who also know how it feels:
JAN STENERUD, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, 1971 AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
Stenerud had the worst day of his Hall of Fame career on Christmas 1971 in a divisional playoff loss to Miami — the longest game in NFL history.
Kicking in muddy conditions in Kansas City, Stenerud missed twice in regulation, the second a 31-yarder in the final minute, then had a 42-yard try blocked in the first overtime.
Garo Yepremian gave Miami a 27-24 victory with a 37-yarder in the second overtime. The Dolphins then beat Baltimore to reach the Super Bowl, where they lost to Dallas.
SCOTT NORWOOD, BUFFALO BILLS, 1991 SUPER BOWL
Good ol’ Wide Right. Norwood missed a 47-yard attempt with 8 seconds left in the Super Bowl, allowing the New York Giants to hang on for a 20-19 victory. That was the first of four straight Super Bowl losses for the Bills and by far the most heartbreaking. Buffalo hasn’t been back since.
Norwood returned for the 1991-92 season and had a perfect postseason while the Bills advanced back to the Super Bowl, even making a decisive 44-yard kick to help them beat Denver in the AFC championship game. Buffalo released Norwood after that season and he retired to his home state of Virginia.
GARY ANDERSON, MINNESOTA VIKINGS, 1999 NFC CHAMPIONSHIP
In reality, 1998 was a special year for Anderson. The Vikings led by Randy Moss and Randall Cunningham went 15-1 in the regular season, and Anderson went 94 for 94 on field goals attempts and extra points, becoming the first kicker to go a full season without missing.
The problem was, he picked a poor time for his first miss in about two years. With Minnesota leading 27-20 and 2:11 left, Anderson missed wide left from 38 yards out, allowing Atlanta to march for a tying touchdown and then win it in overtime on Morten Andersen’s 38-yard make.
DOUG BRIEN, NEW YORK JETS, 2005 AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
Brien missed the biggest kick of his NFL career, and then he did it again just moments later, becoming the first player to miss two field goals in the final 2 minutes of the fourth quarter in a playoff game.
He hit the goal post with a potential go-ahead 47-yarder with 1:58 left, but got a second chance when Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception on the next drive. Brien got a 43-yard look on the final play of regulation, but missed way left.
In overtime, Pittsburgh’s Jeff Reed hit a 33-yard kick to give Pittsburgh a 20-17 win.
MIKE VANDERJAGT, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, 2006 DIVISIONAL ROUND
What looked like an easy win for the Steelers devolved into mayhem late, with Indianapolis scoring 15 fourth-quarter points to pull to 21-18. Jerome Bettis then had the original Jeremy Hill moment, fumbling with Pittsburgh trying to run out the clock, and Nick Harper ran the ball back to the Colts 42 before being tripped up by Roethlisberger.
Peyton Manning worked Indianapolis into Pittsburgh territory, setting up a 46-yard attempt for Vanderjagt, at that point the most accurate kicker in NFL history.
Vanderjagt missed wide right with 21 seconds left, and the Steelers ran out the clock to hold off the Colts.
NATE KAEDING, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, 2010 AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
Kaeding retired in 2012 having made 86.2 percent of his career field goal attempts, making him the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history. The postseason was never his strong suit, though, a trend that began when he missed a 40-yarder against the Jets in 2005. In an interesting twist, Brien won that game for New York with a 27-yarder.
Kaeding’s postseason struggles continued in 2006, when he missed his first field goal at home in two years on a 54-yard attempt that would’ve tied a game against New England. He also missed kicks in San Diego’s first two games of the 2007 playoffs, extending his streak of postseason games with a missed field goal to four.
All that set up the real heartbreaker for Kaeding, though: a 2010 game against the Jets in which he missed three kicks — from 36, 57 and 40 yards — in a game New York won 17-14. The last miss came with 4:42 left and the Jets leading 17-7.
BILLY CUNDIFF, BALTIMORE RAVENS, 2012 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
This may be the closest relative to Walsh on the heartbreaking missed kick family tree. With his Ravens down 23-20 to the Patriots and 15 seconds left, Cundiff set up for a 32-yard chip shot in cold weather at Gillette Stadium.
Cundiff pulled the kick way left, and New England took a knee and a trip to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Super Bowl, where Tom Brady and Co. lost to the Giants 21-17.
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