As Stefon Diggs strode into the end zone Sunday night, arms outstretched, embracing one of the loudest crowds in recorded NFL history, there seemed to be one sentiment common among all Vikings fans:
“These things just do not happen to us.”
And throughout the franchise’s history, that has been the case and to an almost laughable degree. Almost.
Before Diggs turned it around, there was the 1975 Staubach Hail Mary. Gary Anderson‘s miss in 1998. Favre‘s interception in 2009. Blair Walsh‘s missed bunny in 2015. For goodness sakes, only two franchises in NFL history have been to four Super Bowl’s without winning a single one. And at least Buffalo gets the bragging rights of going to four in a row.
A common thread among Minnesota fans’ melancholy has been the kickers. Two separate times, a Viking kicker with a history of success had a playoff game on his foot. Both kicks were entirely make-able. Both kickers had been First Team All-Pro. Yet somehow, both kickers missed: Anderson from 39, Walsh from 27.
So when Kai Forbath was given the task on Sunday of making two important kicks, there was a collective groan across Vikings Twitter. Forbath had one of the most confounding years for a kicking in recent memory, making tough kicks from 50-plus but being iffy from 39 and in. On top of that, he had the dubious distinction of leading all kickers in missed PATs.
But Forbath came through twice on Sunday. He hit a 49-yarder in the fourth that put the Vikings up six. And then more impressively, he knocked a 53-yarder dead center to take a two-point lead with just 1:29 remaining. Ultimately that lead would not hold. But suddenly, a game-winning drive for Case Keenum and the Vikings seemed less daunting as their kicker was, for once, coming through. Of course, Keenum, Diggs and Marcus Williams changed the narrative with one play, no kicker required.
The truth remains that the specters of Walsh and Anderson still linger over U.S. Bank Stadium, even though neither missed their kick within its walls. There is an assumption that kicks are supposed to go wide in key situations. But for one night, Forbath exorcised those demons and gave just a speck of hope that maybe, just maybe, Vikings special teams can be reliable.
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