The Falcons survived the Seahawks on Monday night, 34-31, after Seattle kicker Blair Walsh came up short on a 52-yard game-tying field goal attempt. Walsh had been perfect on FGs up to that point, hitting all three of his previous attempts, from 30, 37, and 46 yards out. 52 yards out was the next logical progression, and he failed short.
The mythology of Atlanta professional football, Blair Walsh, and Minnesota kickers (or, in this case, former Minnesota kickers) is vast and variegated. We all remember Gary Anderson’s last-second miss in the 1998 NFC championship game, of course, which sent Atlanta to the team’s first Super Bowl the Falcons would go on to lose. Heavy sigh.
Blair Walsh kicked for Georgia in college from 2008-2011, a little shop standing some 70 or so miles outside Atlanta. As a freshman he made 15 of 23 field goal attempts; as a sophomore, he hit 20 of 22 attempts, good for a 91 percent success rate, his best season in college. His worst season was his senior year, when he made 21 of 35 attempts, a 60 percent success rate. He’s, shall we say, somewhat erratic.
In the 2012 Outback Bowl, the capstone to Walsh’s worst collegiate season, and in overtime against Kirk Cousins’ Michigan State Spartans, Walsh missed an egregious field goal. The Spartans would go on to make a field goal of their own and win, 33-30. That’s how Walsh’s time at Georgia ended. He missed the final attempt of his collegiate career.
Walsh did stabilize in the NFL, though he’s had some pretty egregious misses.
Most notably in the 2016 NFC wild card game. With 26 seconds left and the Vikings down, 10-9, to Seattle, and with temperatures plummeting to -25 degrees Fahrenheit, Walsh shanked a simple 27-yard attempt for the win, and promptly became Minnesota’s most reviled kicking specialist since Anderson back in 1998. The Vikings released him the following November, and he landed the following year in Seattle, of all places.
Walsh was an All-Pro in 2012, his rookie season, when he made 92 percent of his 35 field goal attempts.
Monday’s game-winning fail was Walsh’s most stunning miss in what could turn out to be a down year for the young kicker.
Thus far in the 2017 season — including Monday’s loss — Walsh has hit 17 of his 22 attempts, which rounds out to a little over 77 percent success rate. For his career, he’s an 83 percent kicker. His lowest made percentage for a season is 74 percent in 2014, and he nearly equalled that with 75 percent in 2016, his last season in Minnesota.
And that fail came at the tail end of a remarkable, four-minute comeback to lose the game for the Seahawks.
Matt Bryant kicked the final points the Falcons would score with 3:49 remaining on the clock on Monday. Seattle immediately answered with a touchdown 49 seconds worth of game clock later.
Atlanta then cobbled together a 74-second “drive” that culminated in a punt. Seattle was then given the ball down three points with 1:46 left on the Seahawks’ 25 yard line. They walked down to the Atlanta 34 yard line, then handed matters over to the right foot of one Blair Walsh — the man Seattle chose over longtime, accurate kicker Steve Hauschka, the Walsh of the missed final collegiate field goal attempt, he of the missed field goal in the 2016 NFC wild card game, he of the 0-for-3 day against Washington in a 14-17 loss two weeks previous — to kick for the tie and overtime.
Let’s see how that went.
There may come a time that this poor man’s mind may just up and snap after one of these misses. And that’ll be a sad day.