Vikings miss short field goal to lose playoff game against Seahawks.

Blair Walsh's Excruciating Missed Field Goal, Explained

Blair Walsh's Excruciating Missed Field Goal, Explained

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Jan. 10 2016 5:02 PM

Blair Walsh's Excruciating Missed Field Goal, Explained

Blair Walsh
The Vikings' Blair Walsh missed a short field goal, but it wasn't his fault. The laces weren't out!

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

According to ESPN Stats and Information, NFL kickers had made 188 of 190 field goals this season on attempts 27 yards and shorter. That's 99 percent. Blair Walsh was also 32 for 33 in his career on kicks less than 30 yards. That's 97 percent.

Josh Levin Josh Levin

Josh Levin is Slate’s editorial director.

Poor Blair Walsh.


On Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings kicker made field goals from 22, 43, and 47 yards. But with less than 30 seconds to play, Walsh yanked a 27-yard field goal wide left, a kick that likely would've given Minnesota a playoff victory over Seattle. Instead, the Seahawks came away 10-9 winners.

Several factors contributed to Walsh's miss.

(1) It was a billion below zero.

OK, it actually measured minus-6 degrees on the field. That's the third-coldest mark ever at kickoff of an NFL game. As Brian Burke documented in 2012, it is very hard to kick a field goal in extremely cold temperatures. Let us marvel that Walsh and the Seahawks' Steven Hauschka were able to make four field goals. Great job, kickers!


(2) The holder didn't turn the laces out.
As NBC's Cris Collinsworth pointed out during the game, Vikings holder Jeff Locke was wearing gloves, which prevented him from spinning the football so the laces faced out. This is a fundamental kicking concept: You have to turn the laces out! 

The irony here is that college football's holder of the year, Peter Mortell, plays for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The Vikings played in the University of Minnesota's stadium this season, meaning that the best and worst holds of the year happened in the exact same place. (Note that Mortell gave the "holder of the year" award to himself. You can listen to Mortell's interview on Slate's sports podcast Hang Up and Listen.)

(3) God wanted Seattle to win.
In a postgame interview with NBC's Michele Tafoya, Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said, "I didn't think he was going to make it. ... It was in their hands, I knew they were going to blow it for us." Chancellor then added, "God showed us tons of grace."