MINNEAPOLIS – In the midst of a completely somber Vikings locker room following a one-point loss to Seattle in their Wild Card matchup, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn crossed the room to kicker Blair Walsh, and patted him on the shoulder.
The gesture did not stand alone. Several of Walsh's teammates approached him to offer a handshake or word of encouragement.
"[Blair]'s a competitor too, and he's stepped up for us and won games for us in the past, so we're not going to abandon him now," said safety Harrison Smith.
Walsh, who made three field goals over the course of the game, had an opportunity to kick a potential game-winning field goal when the Vikings were down 10-9 with just 26 seconds on the clock. Walsh missed the 27-yard attempt, pulling it wide left.
When questioned about the placement of the ball's laces in the hold, Walsh deflected any blame from punter Jeff Locke and accepted responsibility for the missed attempt.
"It's so quick – I have no idea what happened. I have to look back at the film. But I can tell you this: it's my fault," Walsh said. "I don't care if you give me a watermelon [in the] hold, I should be able to put that through. I know Jeff did his job, and Kevin [McDermott] did his job, and I'm the only one that didn't do the job here."
"Blair, Kevin and I are a unit, so it's on all three of us," Locke countered. "I feel like I missed the kick – that's what I feel like."
Walsh made a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter and two field goals in the third quarter: 43 yards and 47 yards, respectively. The first and fourth attempts of the day were made at the west end of the field, where the stadium is open. The longer field goals were made at the east end.
Following the game, Walsh was asked if the elements and wind direction (12 mph out of the west) affected the kick at all. He denied the wind being a factor, saying he has played at TCF Bank Stadium all year and mastered the technique, so he could not use weather as an excuse.
"It didn't feel good off my foot – I kind of knew right away. It's just ridiculous. You have to do much better than that, and I didn't," Walsh said. "When I really pulled it to the left like that, I didn't stay long enough with the kick and commit through it enough – that's what I didn't do. I had done it all day, so I'm not sure why I didn't there. It's frustrating, no doubt."
The Vikings controlled the ball for over 32 minutes of the game, but unfortunately the offense was unable to get into the end zone for a touchdown. In a low-scoring game for both sides, Walsh's three field goals were Minnesota's only points.
"He's the reason we were in the game in the first place," said linebacker Anthony Barr. "You make some, you miss some. It's a make-or-miss league. Obviously, we'd like to have it, but there are no hard feelings toward [Blair]. We win as a team, we lose as a team. He's a great player, a great kicker. I still have all the confidence in the world in him, and we'll bounce back next year."
Veteran linebacker Chad Greenway echoed Barr's sentiments, saying the first thing he told Walsh after the game was that the team would not have been in position to win the game in the fourth quarter without him.
"There's nobody in the world that wants that kick more than Blair Walsh," Greenway said. "[…] He was just threading them, all day. For us to look down like it was that play that ended [the game] is ridiculous. That's why you call it a team game, and he's certainly a big part of this team."
Walsh led the NFL with 34 field goals made in the regular season. They included game winners at Chicago and against St. Louis.
In response to the locker room support, Walsh said he has some of the best teammates in the league, and he appreciated their support following the missed kick.
"At the same time, you know what – it's my fault," Walsh said.
"I work really hard, and I worked really hard to get myself to a place where I was very, very consistent for this team all year. And then in that moment, the moment they needed me the most this year, I wasn't," Walsh added. "I'll be working hard to erase that from my career, but it will take a while."