Dane Mizutani: For once, the kicking gods give the Vikings a break
For the past couple of decades, the Vikings have been a living, breathing example of what can go wrong will go wrong when it comes to the kicking game.
ST. PAUL -- Admit it. You were getting ready for overtime between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints as Will Lutz’s 61-yarder sailed through the sky at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
No kicker misses that field goal, even at that distance. Not against the Vikings.
For the past couple of decades, the Vikings have been a living, breathing example of what can go wrong will go wrong when it comes to the kicking game. Whether it’s Gary Anderson’s miss against the Atlanta Falcons in the 1998 NFC Championship Game, Blair Walsh’s chip-shot shank in the 2015 playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium, or Daniel Carlson’s unraveling against the Green Bay Packers, the kicking gods have always seemed to hate the Vikings.
That might explain why Vikings receiver Adam Thielen thought Lutz’s kick was going in as soon as it left his foot on Sunday. Never mind that it was an extremely low-percentage kick. Growing up in Detroit Lakes, Minn., Thielen learned from an early age to hope for the best and expect the worst whenever a ball leaves a kicker’s foot.
“You’re just hoping it doesn’t go in,” Thielen said. “To go to overtime after a hard-fought battle would have been tough.”
Nonetheless, the extra session felt inevitable after Lutz put a charge into it.
Then something amazing happened. For once, the kicking gods gave the Vikings a break.
Not only did Lutz miss the game-tying field goal as time expired, he did so in the most incredible fashion you can imagine. The ball caromed off the inside of the left upright, then bounced off the crossbar, before landing harmlessly in the back of the end zone. The double doink.
The reaction from both teams was priceless. After the ball hit the crossbar, Saints players started to celebrate, thinking the kick was going to bounce throughout the uprights. A few seconds later, Vikings players were the ones who were celebrating after realizing what actually happened.
“There was a crazy, crazy moment,” Vikings defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said. “It bounced our way.”
This type of stuff almost never goes in favor of the Vikings. They will certainly take it.
“Yeah,” Vikings safety Harrison Smith said. “Just glad it didn’t bounce the other way.”
Meanwhile, Greg Joseph finished for 5 for 5 on field goals, another example of the kicking gods being kind to the Vikings across the pond. He impressively shook off a missed extra point to nail a 47-yarder that proved to be the difference. Clutch.
“Just an awesome day,” Joseph said. “A great team win.”
The juxtaposition of Lutz’s day and Joseph’s day shouldn’t be lost on Vikings fans who have been traumatized over time by the kicking game.
Maybe this signals the turning of a page. Maybe the kicking gods will go bug another franchise for the foreseeable future. Maybe Joseph will be the goat next week.
Either way, the Vikings will take the win, knowing they have been on the other side of it more than their fair share of times.
“As soon as he hit it, I thought it was going in,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said of Lutz’s 61-yarder. “A couple of bounces later, we’re able to walk off as the winning team.”
No overtime necessary.
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