Vikings Have a Rendezvous with a Massive Blunder on Sunday

Vikings Likely 48 Hours from Structural Change
Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman

Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman captained the Vikings’ ship for quite a long time through the day-to-day business of the NFL. With some distance, it can be noted that the duo did a decent job. Zimmer won the NFC North twice in eight years and guided the franchise to three postseason trips. He never had a lower win total than seven.

Vikings Have a Rendezvous with a Massive Blunder on Sunday

Oct 6, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur (left) and Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer (right) meet before a game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Strong defenses and a heavily featured running game were the main characteristics of the Zimmer Vikings. In the final two years, the suspect personnel on defense changed that approach. Kirk Cousins throwing to Justin Jefferson was the offense’s focal point, trying to outscore the bad defensive unit. Regardless of how the team changed over time, one thing remained.

The kicking game was a disaster in the Zimmer era, starting with Blair Walsh hitting only 80% of his field goals and 90.6% of his extra points. He also had a heartbreaking miss in the playoffs. Following his release, the Vikings turned to Kai Forbath, who made 88.7% of his field goals but only a horrendous 84.9% of his extra points.

Vikings Have a Rendezvous with a Massive Mistake on Sunday
Sep 9, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

After the 2017 season, the organization wanted to compete by signing Kirk Cousins in free agency, and they also tried to fix the kicking struggles by drafting a kicker in the fifth round. Daniel Carlson out of Auburn was supposed to be the chosen one.

After missing two field goals in the preseason, Carlson had already raised concerns before the season even began. In the season opener against the 49ers, the kicker hit a 48-yard field goal and all three extra points. Just one week later, the most forgettable game of Carlson’s life arrived. Facing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, Carlson missed a 48-yarder in the second quarter, and the game went into overtime after Kirk Cousins had a wonderful game-tying drive, including a beautiful touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in double coverage and the subsequent two-point conversion.

Sep 16, 2018; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson (7) reacts after missing a game-winning field goal as time expires during overtime against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Most Vikings fans still have nightmares about that overtime. Carlson missed a 49-yarder to put his team up by three points and later missed the game-winning kick as time expired from just 35 yards out.

The next day, the Vikings decided to cut their rookie kicker after just two games and signed Dan Bailey instead. Bailey, a long-time Cowboy and one of the most accurate kickers ever, hit only 79.7% of his field goals and 90.7% of extra points. Since 2021, it has been Greg Joseph kicking for the purple team, but hitting 81.9% of field goals and 89.6% of extra points are bad numbers.

And the fix was so easy. Be patient, stick with the talented rookie kicker, and help him overcome his problems. But the Vikings didn’t have the patience, expecting to compete for the Super Bowl. Carlson, meanwhile, moved on to the Raiders, having a fabulous career, while the Vikings haven’t had a good kicking game since.

Nov 26, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis shakes hands with place kicker Daniel Carlson (2) during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hitting 89% of his field goal attempts and 95.7% of his extra points, Carlson has become one of the elite kickers in the NFL. Long kicks are his specialty, as he has hit 25 of 32 kicks from 50 or more yards out. After the 2022 season, Carlson was named first-team All-Pro. He has also led the league in scoring twice and is the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history.

Joseph is playing on a one-year deal, and his performance has been shaky, so the Vikes might give the position a look in the draft. Let’s hope they have more patience this time.

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Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt

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