By Guy N. Limbeck
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
MINNEAPOLIS — That fifth-round draft choice the Minnesota Vikings spent on kicker Blair Walsh is looking pretty good right now.
Walsh, playing in his first NFL game on Sunday, booted a 55-yard field goal on the last play of regulation as the Vikings tied the Jacksonville Jaguars at 23-23. Walsh then kicked a 38-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Vikings to a 26-23 victory.
"That was huge, a rookie stepping up and making a play like that," Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels of Rochester said. "We're all proud of him."
The Vikings needed to make a mad dash up field to set up Walsh's game-tying field goal. After giving up a touchdown with 20 seconds to play, the Vikings were down by three. But two Christian Ponder completions of 26 and 6 yards moved the Vikings to the Jacksonville 37 with four seconds to play.
That set the stage for Walsh.
"I was nervous for him," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. "I'm glad he's the kicker and not me."
Walsh entered the game and boomed the ball through the uprights with yards to spare, sending the game to overtime. The 55-yard kick was tied for second longest field goal in Vikings history with Ryan Longwell, the man he replaced this season, and only behind Paul Edinger's 56 yarder in 2005.
"Before the kick I was just prepping, trying to make sure my trajectory was right so I could hit a good ball, because I knew it was going to be a long kick no matter what we did," Walsh said. "Our offense did a great job of actually getting to the sidelines and getting out of bounds, as well as making plays to where we can get in range."
Walsh, who is 5-foot-10 and 192 pounds, said he was confident in being able to hit a kick from 57 or 58 yards.
"You have to do it," he said. "I mean, you've got to give yourself a chance to go out there and hit it and the snap and hold were perfect, the execution was perfect, I got a good hit on it and it went in."
Walsh finished 4-for-4 on field goals. He was also very good on kickoffs. Of his six kickoffs, three went for touchbacks and Jacksonville started on its own 16, 18 and 23 on the other three.
"He's got the leg to get a touchback about every time," Sherels said.
Walsh also proved he could knock in a long field goal in a pressure situation.
"As a rookie, it doesn't get much more pressure than that and to come through for us," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "It really improved the confidence of our players along with his confidence as time goes on."
The Vikings lost nine times by seven points or less a year ago.