Twenty-Seven Yards and a Cloud of Hope

Twenty-seven yards.

That’s what separated the Vikings from one more win in a season for the ages.

I laughed to myself as I watched Blair Walsh erratically hook the game-winning field goal kick to the left with less than :30 remaining in regulation.

A year that saw the Vikings exorcise many demons that have haunted them these past 15 years — winning the North, winning on the road, winning in prime-time, beating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, beating the Packers period — ended, on a missed kick that had been converted at a 99 percent rate by the rest of the league this year prior to Sunday.

The life as a Vikings fan would give you no other outcome. All you can do is laugh.

What makes the miss by Walsh so excruciating was at how excellent he has been this year and really his entire career.

For his career, Walsh was 32-of-33 on attempts from inside 30 yards, including 9-for-9 this year. He led the league in field goals made this year with 34, including two 5-for-5 efforts against Detroit and New York.

Only the Baltimore Ravens called on its kicker more times than the Vikings did this year and that was by one attempt. In fact, in all four seasons combined since Walsh has entered the league only seven other kickers have attempted 39 field goals in a year.

It’s not a stretch to say that the Vikings do not even find themselves with the NFC North crown, a home playoff game and an 11-5 season without Blair Walsh. He has quietly been one of the Vike’s most valuable players.

On game winners, Walsh was 5-for-6 for his career with his only miss being a 56-yarder against the New York Jets last season. He was 2-for-2 this year in consecutive weeks against the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams. Despite having a down 2014 season where he only converted 26-of-35 for a 74 percent, his career conversion rate of 85.2 percent places him 10th all-time in NFL history.

That’s what makes his kick so maddening, Walsh has been one of the most effective kickers since he entered the league four years ago.

Despite Walsh shanking the ball into the Mississippi River, this game was not remotely close to be solely placed on him.

The Vikings scored nine points on Sunday. Walsh scored nine points on Sunday. Walsh was responsible for every single Purple point.

One of the Vikings biggest bugaboos this year was its inability to scores touchdowns and sure enough, it reared its ugly head in the biggest game. The Vikings ranked an abominable 27th in the NFL in average offensive touchdowns per game with 1.9.

In a game that was decided by one point, any drive that would have culminated in a touchdown probably would have made the world of difference in the final outcome. The Vikings could not get out of its own way on offense.

Adrian Peterson, fresh off his third career rushing title ran the ball 23 times for 45 yards. But it’s hard to gauge how ineffective Peterson was when the Seahawks defensive line lived in the backfield all day.

He had an average of 0.7 yards before contact.

On an average play Peterson was not even getting a full yard before a Seahawk defender was attempting to tackle him. The offensive line was truly that, offensive.

Of course, Peterson had the crucial fumble immediately after Seattle finally found some success against the Vikings and scored its first points of the game.

Teddy Bridgewater played fairly well considering the weather conditions, but there were a few throws that he either missed or just didn’t see, namely Stefon Diggs on a crossing route and Jarius Wright on third down of the first scoring drive that ended in a field goal.

Just because Walsh was the last one to mess up in the closing moments of the game doesn’t mean that he was the only one to mess up or even mean he had the biggest mess ups.

Walsh was still 75 percent successful.

The offensive line was not that successful nor was Adrian Peterson.

However, with all that being said, the Vikings competed all day with the reigning two-time NFC champions.

The Vikings have a solid core to build around on offense and a defense that is quickly rising to the elite. After being the worst defense in football just two seasons ago, they finished fifth in scoring for the 2015 season.

I hope this is only the beginning, and this loss will be looked back upon a few years from now as a stepping stone.

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