At Least We Have a Kicker: A Brave New World for Vikings Fans

Greg Joseph
Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph (1) kicks a point after with a hold from punter Jordan Berry (3) in the second quarter of the NFL Week One game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. The Bengals led 14-7 at halftime. Minnesota Vikings At Cincinnati Bengals

Greg Joseph was perfect.

Reading that about a Minnesota Vikings kicker is a rarity, especially in a contest that went down to the wire. And Joseph was about the only aspect of the game that was perfect as the Vikings clumsily lost to the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 27-24 in Week 1. Minnesota was flagged for 17 penalties (with 12 accepted by Cincinnati), gutting any offensive momentum, particularly in the first half. But when Minnesota did cease the incessant infractions, quarterback Kirk Cousins guided the enterprise to a number of points, 24, that wins most Vikings games coached by Mike Zimmer.

The 4th Quarter approached with Cousins leading a game-tying drive which began deep in Vikings territory. This transaction sent the game to overtime.

Minnesota has missed so many impactful field goals and extra points over the years, most fans thought this kick was living on a prayer. Yet, Joseph delivered. He even drilled the damn thing twice because Bengals head coach Zac Taylor tried to “freeze” Joseph with a sneaky timeout. It didn’t matter. Joseph connected on both attempts. He also hit all three extra points — a big deal for Vikings lore.

Ultimately, the Vikings coughed away the game on a questionable fumble by Dalvin Cook. Minnesota’s running back forged ahead for a minimal gain, hit the turf, and the football dribbled out. Referees reviewed the play — for what felt like an hour — only to determine the ball wiggled out before Cook’s rump was down. Several freeze-framed photos showed otherwise, the television announcers predicted an overturn — but it was all for naught. The referees stuck with the call on the field. Fumble. Recovery. Bengals possession.

Cincinnati then converted an impressive 4th Down and won the game via field goal. Ballgame. The Vikings dropped to 0-1 inside its do-or-die season.

Strangely, fears about Joseph evaporated, if only for a day. A kicker — of all things — was Mr. Reilable, Mr. Clutch. Indeed, Joseph could follow up his mini-magnum opus next week with a stinker, but his 53-yarder deep in the game proved the unsung kicker has it in there somewhere to be cold-blooded. Hopefully, Minnesota will call upon those services again at a more meaningful juncture. The reality of losing to a Bengals team that finished 4-11-1 last year — while staring at a slate of opponents named the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, and Cleveland Browns — is brutal for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Easy games in 2021, at least for now, are scarce. Week 1 in Cincinnati was supposed to be winnable based on comparative depth chart talent. But as former Vikings nose tackle Henry Thomas likes to say, “Paper don’t play.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer will spend the next six days determining how to cancel penalties, ensuring the defense plays four quarters, and praying rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw is healed soon. That’s the to-do list.

Somehow though, sweating the clutch gene of the kicker is not the anxiety-inducing gig right now.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).