Sunday’s 29-29 tie with the Green Bay Packers, more than anything, strengthened a pair of narratives that have long been festering with the Minnesota Vikings fan base.
One, that Laquon Treadwell has failed to live up to his first-round draft status. Two, that kickers only exist to doom them in clutch situations.
Both were at the forefront of a bizarre stalemate in which kicker Daniel Carlson missed all three field goal attempts — including two in overtime — and Laquon Treadwell dropped two (arguably three) passes, one of which was intercepted late in the fourth quarter.
The new placekicker, drafted in the fifth round of April’s draft, will be most heavily scrutinized this coming week. Head coach Mike Zimmer did not give Carlson a vote of confidence, instead saying he and general manager Rick Spielman would evaluate the situation.
“I believed that the guy was going to make the kick,” Zimmer said after the game. “They said put it in the middle of the field, and it was dead smack in the middle, and in practice every day he drills them. That’s the disappointing thing for me. We come out here and we do that.”
Carlson was wide right from 48, 49 and 35 yards — the latter coming with no time remaining on the overtime clock and sending the Vikings and Packers to their second tie in six years.
Vikings fans were happy to have the strong-legged rookie kicker on the team after his impressive training camp where he built a case to beat out veteran Kai Forbath, but Carlson missed two kicks in the third preseason game to plant seeds of doubt. Now they have taken root and may be hard to squelch.
The Vikings stormed back to tie the game at 29 at the end of regulation. Carlson’s first miss in overtime could have given them a lead and a chance to win with a defensive stop. His second miss foiled an impressive Kirk Cousins-led drive that had positioned Carlson in the center of the field for a potential redemption-earning walk-off.
“It feels terrible,” said Carlson. “Obviously, I let my team down. Credit to them because they fought back time and time again. They gave me opportunities. It is disappointing for me personally. The team fought so hard. We expect to win that, and I expect to make those kicks to win the game for the team. That last one was probably more just confidence after missing twice early.”
Overshadowed a bit by Carlson’s misses is Treadwell, who caught his first NFL touchdown in the first quarter but was nearly the game’s primary goat when Cousins’ pass was intercepted by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix after hitting Treadwell’s hands with the score 26-21 and just over two minutes remaining. Thanks to Cousins’ heroics on the ensuing drive, Treadwell’s drop took a back seat, but he later missed a ball on 3rd and 9 in overtime that forced Carlson to attempt a lengthy 49-yard field goal. It was thrown slightly behind him but could have been caught.
“You’ve got to catch the ball,” Zimmer said of Treadwell. “That’s the number one thing that receivers do, catch the ball.”
Treadwell also dropped another third down pass on a broken play in the third quarter that would have been a first down.
Cousins took some blame, though, for his interception-causing drop in overtime.
“[He’s] fine. This is a tough game,” said Cousins. “Stuff happens. I threw that ball pretty hard. That was probably my hardest pass of the day. We just gotta get him in the fire where he can be, ‘OK, been there, done that.'”
Treadwell watched from the sidelines on several plays late in the contest as Stacy Coley and Brandon Zylstra took his place in the wide receiver rotation. Coley, though, also dropped a pass and was targeted by Cousins on a nullified interception that could have iced the game.
The Vikings may have uncertainty about their wide receiver depth chart heading into Week 3. The problem about their kicking problem: There’s nobody else but Carlson.
After two weeks of the regular season, Minnesota may be contemplating a change at one of the game’s most pressure-packed positions.
Carlson received words of support from many of teammates in the locker room. If the fifth-round draft pick is given another chance, it’ll be their job to build him up before playing the Buffalo Bills.
“I don’t know anything about the psyche of kicking,” said Cousins, “but I just said tough times don’t last, tough people do. It’s an old adage. I’ve said it to myself so many times. This league’s gonna test you, and you’re gonna have mistakes, you’re gonna have failures. We all know that. None of us are immune to it. You’ve just got to come back, you have to choose to be a tough person.”