EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Forced by Blair Walsh’s struggles to switch kickers last year, the Minnesota Vikings have their field goal tries back on track with Kai Forbath.
Those pesky extra points are, well, another matter. Forbath’s career-most six field goals in as many attempts, including two from 50-plus yards, were the difference for the Vikings in their 24-16 victory over Baltimore on Sunday.
Forbath, in his seventh NFL season, is 12 for 12 from 40-plus yards with the Vikings. Four of those from that distance came against the Ravens. His only missed field goal was a 39-yard try three weeks ago against Detroit.
“Every time you make one, you get a little more confidence,” Forbath said.
The team certainly gains more trust, too. Even coach Mike Zimmer, who didn’t hide his disappointment in Walsh as the missed kicks piled up last year, has expressed as much. He praised Forbath in his postgame speeches following the victories at Chicago and against Baltimore this month.
“He’s right on the edge of where he needs to be,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings (5-2) have improved their production with the ball this season, beginning with vastly better blocking by the offensive line. They’re 12th in total yards, up from 28th in 2016. Injury issues have hurt them at the skill positions, though, making a reliable kicker all the more important to provide points when the final punch into the end zone is missing, as it was on those six occasions against the Ravens.
“Obviously we’d like to make a few third-down conversions, sustain drives and score touchdowns, but when Kai is making kicks all over the place and every time we get the ball we’re putting at least three points up, we’ll take it,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said.
Latavius Murray’s 29-yard run in the third quarter was the only time the Vikings crossed the goal line, and Forbath’s extra point bounced off the right upright. That’s the sixth time he’s missed in 28 attempts with the Vikings, a peculiar if not troubling trend when he’s been so accurate from much longer distances.
“I thought I hit it well,” Forbath said. “It’s nothing I’m worried about.”
As long as he keeps making 50-plus yarders, he probably doesn’t have to be.
“You can’t play scared and like you’re going to lose your job,” Forbath said. “I go out every week and be confident.”
The Vikings began an unusual week of preparation for their road game against Cleveland, with the matchup going overseas to London. They’ll leave Minnesota after practicing Wednesday, giving them a long weekend across the Atlantic.
Zimmer spoke optimistically about having injured players back to play the Browns, including left guard Nick Easton (calf), wide receiver Stefon Diggs (groin) and cornerback Mackensie Alexander (hip), who all missed the game against the Ravens. Left tackle Riley Reiff (knee) departed in the third quarter on Sunday, but Zimmer said he doesn’t believe that injury “is going to be too serious.”