Walsh tries to kick through slump for Vikings

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — A couple of Blair Walsh's missed field goals this season for Minnesota have been blocked.

Another failed kick came on a long shot of a 68-yarder on the last play of last week's game at Detroit that would have broken an NFL record had the ball gone through.

There are plenty of reasons that Walsh's statistics are down, not all related directly to him. Still, he's last in the league this year among regular kickers in field-goal accuracy, and there's no arguing with that.

"It's tough," Walsh said. "I don't feel like I'm hitting the ball poorly, but my results say otherwise right now so it's something I've got to get shored up and fixed."

Walsh is 22 for 31 with field goals this season, a .710 success rate. The next closest kicker with at least 20 attempts is Greg Zuerlein of St. Louis, who is 22 for 29 (.759).

"You're not in this profession to make excuses for yourself," Walsh said. "You've got to hold yourself to that standard that you hold yourself to, a higher standard of performing especially when you've done it before.

"You've just got to go out there and really just rely on what you've done and the work ethic and the time you've put into it to have a successful field goal."

Walsh was an All-Pro as a rookie in 2012 after hitting 35 of 38 attempts (.921), including 10 for 10 on attempts of at least 50 yards. He followed that by going 26 of 30 (.867) last year, the final season for the Vikings at the kicker-friendly Metrodome.

The two-year move outside to TCF Bank Stadium has proven difficult, introducing the wind and the cold on a more frequent basis. He is 9 for 13 at home this season, including 2 for 4 on kicks of 50-plus yards.

"I really think he's a good kicker. I hope he's in a slump right now. Maybe he's not hitting the ball exactly how he wants to. He's still swinging well. They're not ugly misses," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "But he'll get it figured out. He's a pro. He's a mentally tough kid. He'll keep working and try to get better."

The investment by the Vikings in a sixth-round draft pick for Walsh raised questions because of his senior-year struggles at Georgia. But Priefer identified some mechanical flaws he believed could be fixed, and Walsh became an instant NFL success.

Now he's hit the first real rough patch of his professional career.

Walsh said he hasn't lost confidence, which can be a concern for his line of work. He has missed 5 of 6 field goals over the past two games, though he had one of his three tries blocked in a 16-14 loss at Detroit last week when the protection on the line broke down. Three other failed kicks were from 53, 56 and 68 yards, though Walsh set a high standard from long range with that Pro Bowl rookie season.

"I'm pretty confident in general. I know I can hang with any of these guys in the league, and I just want to go out there and be dependable for my team right now," Walsh said. "That's really what I'm focused on right now."

Coach Mike Zimmer didn't leave any doubt about his faith in Walsh for a long field goal if the situation arises.

"I honestly do not have a problem with Blair at all," Zimmer said. "If I feel good about the kick, we'll kick it."


AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this report.


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