It was their chance to knock off the defending NFC champions on one of the coldest days is NFL history. With a temperature of -2, kicker Blair Walsh lined up to kick a routine 27-yard field goal to win the game. The kick sailed wide left. The Vikings lost the game 10-9, and their season was over.
Walsh sat in front of his locker after the game in a state of disbelief. Overwhelmed by pain and failure, he cried into his arm. He is one of the league’s best kickers, going 37-for-42 this season and 10-for-10 inside 30 yards. “I have no idea what happened,” he said. “But I can tell you this. It is my fault.”
The ball was set up improperly, with the laces facing in, by holder Jeff Locke. But Walsh shrugged that off and repeated, “I am to blame. It was all on me. It was my fault.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer said, “He’s got to make that kick.” All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson said, “I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was fake.” Yet, player after player sought out their kicker, patting him on the shoulder, telling him to keep his head up, and offering the comfort that did little to lift their teammate in the moment, but provided unspeakable encouragement for the days to come.
Linebacker Anthony Barr said, “He’s the reason we were in the game in the first place,” referring to three made field goals earlier in the game. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said, “He’s won a ton of games for us.” And defensive end Brian Robison added, “There are plays throughout the game that you can pick other than that. You can’t put the whole game on him.” Given one more opportunity to respond, in light of the words of his teammates, Blair Walsh repeated his prior assessment. “It was on me. I cost us the game. It was my fault.”
This could be a story about encouragement, as Walsh’s teammates offered great support. Or we could talk about how we win as a team and lose as a team. Or the story could be of a kicker who accepted too much of the blame.
But I actually like his comment: “It was my fault.” That is the missing element in most of our lives – the ability to accept the blame. No excuses. Walsh didn’t blame the unbearable wind chill of -16 degrees, the strong cross wind, or the bad hold of the ball. He accepted the blame.
The Bible says we all have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), fallen short (Romans 3:23), and come up short (Romans 3:10). There is help, provided by Jesus on the cross. There is encouragement, provided by the body of Christ. But first, we must come to the point discovered on a bitterly cold football field Sunday. Kicker Blair Walsh missed a kick. And he said, “It was my fault.” Those may the be most refreshing four words of the day.