MINNEAPOLIS — Forgive Minnesota Vikings fans if they are a little squeamish when it comes to their kickers.
You can thank Gary Anderson, Blair Walsh and Daniel Carlson for that.
So when the Vikings added Kaare Vedvik from the Baltimore Ravens after the first NFL preseason game with no clear plan whether to use him as a placekicker or a punter, angst could be felt building up among the fan base.
While it’s always a team’s job to evaluate personnel during the preseason, usually the kicking game is a settled matter by Week 3 of the preseason. And it’s always decided that your kicker won’t be handling the punting duties as well.
But the Vikings don’t appear to be in a hurry to finalize their special teams. They even have floated the idea of using Vedvik for both jobs, something seemingly not done in the NFL on a semi-regular basis since Frank Corral of the Los Angeles Rams did it in 1981.
Vedvik was out at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday battling Dan Bailey for the placekicking job and Matt Wile at punter in the Vikings’ unconvincing 20-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The Norwegian Vedvik, who punted three times in his first preseason game as a Viking against Seattle, booted his kickoffs into the end zone and made both extra points but sent a 43-yard field-goal attempt wide left near the end of the first half and then sailed a 54-yarder wide right in the fourth quarter.
That didn’t win him any kjaerlighet from the Vikings’ coaching staff.
Wile handled all the punting duties, averaging 47.3 yards on six attempts. That topped his 45.2-yard average in 2018.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was perplexed when asked afterward if he had an answer for the kicking situation.
"I honestly don't know," he said. "Since we brought Vedvik in, Wile has been punting good and Bailey has been kicking good, and then Vedvik goes out there and misses field goals. I'm at a loss on that."
Bailey, who made 21 of 28 field goals a year ago and at one time was the NFL’s most accurate kicker of all time, has yet to cement a spot on the team. But if anyone could raise his stock without playing, Bailey may have done that Saturday.
When asked where his level of concern was with Vedvik, Zimmer replied: "High."
The Vikings even went for two after Mike Boone’s go-ahead touchdown run with 8:20 to play, a disputed Kyle Sloter-to-Olabisi Johnson incompletion. They then pulled out a bootleg for a touchdown on fourth-and-2 in the final minute. They may not have tried either if the coaches were enamored with the kickers.
Clearly the hope is the kicking game will be secondary to an offense clicking on all cylinders. If you are scoring touchdowns whenever you are in the red zone, the kicking game receives less scrutiny.
But other than Dalvin Cook’s surprise appearance and subsequent 85-yard touchdown run (longest in Vikings preseason history), Minnesota’s first-team offense was stagnant against one of the league’s worst teams. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was out of sync with his receivers during the only half he played. The second-year Vikings starter completed 3 of 13 passes for 35 yards, statistics not worthy of a signal-caller making $28 million a season.
When Cousins isn’t accurate, there’s little Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs or Kyle Rudolph can do to change around a game.
Luckily, Minnesota has an elite defense — even one without safety Harrison Smith or tackle Linval Joseph, who sat out Saturday. The Vikings bottled up dynamic Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray for the most part, allowing the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 draft pick to throw for just 137 yards and keep him in single-digit rushing yards.
The Cardinals did make all three of their field-goal tries, their only accomplishment on the day.
While a strong defense is central to winning championships, Super Bowls can be won or lost on the leg of a kicker. Just ask Adam Vinatieri. Or Scott Norwood.
Vikings fans don’t need to be reminded of how kickers can screw up a season.
Anderson’s missed field goal in the 1998 NFC championship game allowed Atlanta a backdoor entry into the Super Bowl; Walsh’s sub-zero shank in the 2015 playoffs ended the season prematurely; and Carlson’s three misses last season ensured a tie game against the Green Bay Packers, a gaffe that brought Bailey into the picture.
With just one remaining preseason game, the drama will end soon. At least until more kicking woes rear their ugly head during the regular season.
Rick Weegman is the sports editor of the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302 or firstname.lastname@example.org.