Notebook: Blair Walsh continues to deliver in the clutch for Vikings
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Blair Walsh began and ended his first NFL regular season the same way and that's why the rookie kicker was elected to the Pro Bowl last week.
Walsh, who hit a 55-yard field goal to tie the Vikings opener against Jacksonville as time expired in regulation and then made a 38-yarder in overtime to win it, connected on a 29-yard field goal as regulation expired again to give the Vikings a 37-34 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and put Minnesota in the playoffs.
Walsh also connected from 54 and 37 yards Sunday and finished the season 10-for-10 on field goals of 50 yards or more. Walsh set an NFL record last weekend at Houston by hitting his ninth field goal of at least 50 yards.
A sixth-round pick out of Georgia by the Vikings last April, Walsh said he never gave thought to the magnitude of the kick he attempted to end Sunday's game. The Vikings had to beat the Packers to make the playoffs and a miss would have meant the teams went to overtime.
"I just go out there and try and hit another kick," he said. "I knew what it was. I'm not going to ignore it and try to fight what the kick means. But you have to go out there and try and have fun with it. There is definitely less pressure when the game is tied, but there still is a lot of pressure because you have to make it."
That hasn't been an issue for Walsh, who has made 35 of 38 kicks this season and is a perfect 36 of 36 on extra-point attempts.
Simpson passes test
Jerome Simpson fell to the ground when he attempted to get up in the third quarter after a collision with a Packers defender in the end zone, but the Vikings wide receiver said afterward he was fine.
Simpson was able to pass the concussion tests given to players and returned to the game.
"I just got dizzy a little bit after that hit," Simpson said. "We ran a little crisscross play and I think the safety we head butted each other. I just tried to get up a little too fast before I got my feet up under me and we did all the concussion tests and everything was good."
Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who plays on special teams, suffered a shoulder injury.
In other injury news:
Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who suffered a broken right hand last weekend at Houston, left Sunday's game in the second quarter when the swelling and pain became too much and did not return.
Cornerback A.J. Jefferson injured his ankle but was able to return.
Safety Harrison Smith suffered a shoulder stinger late in the game but said he would be fine.
Defensive end Brian Robison returned after missing one game because of a shoulder injury. Robison had an ice pack on his shoulder after the game and admitted he was in great pain.
Robison did have a strip sack of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the third quarter that gave the Vikings the ball at the 50-yard line and ended in Adrian Peterson's 2-yard touchdown catch.
While Robison got the start at left end, Everson Griffen continued to play well. Griffen had three of the Vikings' five sacks of Rodgers.
Vikings cornerback Chris Cook decided Sunday that he was going to wear his black socks pulled up high, a decision that goes against the NFL dress code and will draw a fine from the league. But when Cook told fellow members of the secondary about his fashion choice, he found that his teammates were on board, too.
"I was going to come out and do it by myself and then I came in and 'Toine was like, 'I'm going to go with you Cook,'" Cook said. "It just started trickling down the line and everybody came out in all black. I think you could call it a sign of unity. Once I did it, everybody did it. It was just like, 'Let's all just stay together. If one gets fined, we're all going to get fined.'"
Cook said he felt the black socks looked good with his black and yellow cleats and black sleeves.
"That was just me showing that I meant business," he said. "All black."
Put me down!
As Walsh ran on the field to attempt the game winner, Sanford picked up Peterson near the Vikings sideline and carried him. There was only one problem. Walsh hadn't ended the game yet.
So was Peterson thinking that it might be a good idea to get the game-winner through the uprights before celebrating?
"I was. I was," he said. "I was enjoying it but then again in the back of my head I'm like, 'We need to make sure we get it in first. I'm not celebrating right now. He made (the kick), so it felt good."
Opponents set for 2013
The Vikings' second-place finish in the NFC North enables them to know who they will play next season.
The Vikings will face every team in the NFC East and AFC North and will play the second-place teams in the NFC South (Carolina) and NFC West (Seattle). Of course, they will play home-and-homes against their NFC North foes.
The Vikings' home games will be against Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, Carolina, Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay. The Sept. 29 game against Pittsburgh in London will count as a home game for the Vikings.
On the road, the Vikings will play Dallas, the Giants, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay.