EDEN PRAIRIE — Adrian Peterson has been a threat to score from anywhere on the field this season, the kind of performance that makes a fan hold his breath every time he touches the ball.
Blair Walsh hasn’t been quite that dynamic. But as soon as the Minnesota Vikings cross midfield, they know they’re in his range. And the rookie kicker has been so good that no breath holding has been necessary.
Walsh was named NFC special teams player of the week on Wednesday after he kicked five field goals, including three of 50 yards or more in a victory over the Rams. He hit from 50, 53 and 51 yards to tie an NFL record for most field goals of at least 50 yards in one game.
“I love him,” Peterson said. “Ever since training camp, I’ve seen him kick a 60-yard field goal. Maybe 65, 70 (in practice). I mean, this kid is pretty good. He’s been big for us all season. Whenever it’s 50-plus, I’m thinking, ‘It’s good.”’
That’s a lot of faith to have in a kicker who struggled as a senior at Georgia. But the Vikings saw some mechanical issues that they thought they could fix, so they invested a sixth-round draft choice in Walsh and then said goodbye to rock-solid veteran Ryan Longwell in favor of the unproven rookie.
It’s hard to imagine it turning out much better. Walsh is 29 for 32 on field goals this season, including a perfect eight for eight on kicks of 50 yards or longer, which is an NFL record. His 117 points are a franchise record for a rookie, surpassing Randy Moss’s brilliant first year in 1998. His 47 touchbacks also are a franchise record and the fourth-best total in the NFL this season.
“I don’t have time to reflect on it or look back,” Walsh said with a shrug. “I’m a firm believer that if you get too high on yourself you’re going to set yourself up for a hard fall.”