The Blair Walsh era is curtains in Minnesota.
NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday that the Vikings have released their embattled kicker after another ugly performance in Sunday’s 26-20 loss to the Redskins. The team later confirmed the move.
It didn’t take long for Minnesota to find Walsh’s replacement. The Vikings signed journeyman kicker Kai Forbath Wednesday, the team announced.
“It was just something felt we needed to do,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday on the kicking change.
After quarterback Sam Bradford and the Vikings ripped off 20 unanswered points against Washington, Walsh flubbed an extra point just before the half, keeping Washington within striking distance at 20-14. It was just the latest mistake in a string of high-profile gaffes for the fifth-year veteran.
“We’ve probably got to try and find a way to create some explosive plays,” Bradford said following the 16-13 loss, via the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. “It’s hard when you’re only picking up five, six, seven (yards) at a time. There’s things that we can do to try and figure out how we can create some more explosive plays.”
Of his 37 passes, Bradford threw just one that is considered “deep” — 15 or more yards downfield — a second-quarter sideline toss to a diving Rhett Ellison. Pro Football Focus charted just three passes from Bradford for more than 10 yards down field and noted that his 3.5 yards per pass average was tied for the shortest of any quarterback this season.
Several factors added to the Vikings’ depressing dink-and-dunk strategy, most notably Stefon Diggs’ absence and a poor offensive line that lost two starters throughout the game.
Credit Lions defenders for making tackles on the short throws and not allowing extra yards after the catch. Then the winning play came after Lions corner Darius Slay finally jumped a route on third-and-7 with just over 30 seconds remaining after watching the short throws all game.
“The corner made a good play,” Bradford said. “That was the first time he had trapped it (Thursday).”
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“I’m not sleeping a lot lately these days,” Sparano said Thursday, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s something, obviously, I haven’t been a part of, these scenarios where you go 10-12 linemen deep. There’s been a lot of moving parts and a lot of change.”
The injuries and shuffling up front have done nothing to help a ground game that ranks last in the NFL with just one 100-yard outing all season.
“I see it as a challenge and I love a challenge,” Sparano said. “Whatever the chess pieces are when we go out there, we have to figure out a way to play to the best of our ability to give ourselves a chance to win football games. That part of it I enjoy.”
Said Sparano: “It’s just when you’re changing the pieces … we all have to know our jobs and sometimes we have to know more than our job. That’s what keeps us in the league a long time. They can line the excuses up for our football team around the corner right now. We just choose not use them.”
Minnesota’s line woes turn Sunday’s showdown with Arizona into a rugged assignment for a Vikings team that hasn’t won a game since Week 5. The Cardinals roll into town with the NFL’s second-best defense and a pair of pass-rushers in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden jersey who have battered quarterbacks all season.
If the Vikings hope to save their campaign, it must come this Sunday — and it starts with Sparano’s hodgepodge line keeping signal-caller Sam Bradford in an upright position.