Blair Walsh blew it for the Minnesota Vikings. Vontaze Burfict and Adam “Pacman” Jones did the same for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Both teams should have moved on in the NFL playoffs but instead are done for the season, and those men are largely the ones responsible.
Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining in the Vikings’ NFC wildcard game against Seattle on Sunday. It would have given Minnesota a two-point lead and almost a sure victory. Instead, the Seahawks advanced with a 10-9 win.
After the game, Walsh sat in front of his locker and answered every question from reporters. He didn’t make excuses. He wouldn’t let his holder or long snapper accept any part of the blame. He didn’t point out that he had made three other field goals -- of 22, 43 and 47 yards -- to account for all of his team’s points during the game, which just happened to be the third coldest in league history.
Instead, Walsh looked right at the reporters and into their cameras and took responsibility for what had just happened.
“It’s my fault. I’m the one who didn’t do his job,” Walsh said. “I worked real hard to get to a place where I was very consistent for this team all year. In the moment they needed me most this year, I wasn’t. That stings. I’ll be working hard to erase that from my career, but it’ll take a while.”
And after he was done addressing the media, a devastated Walsh sobbed for 15 minutes, according to ESPN.
A day earlier, the Bengals were 18 seconds away from a wildcard playoff win against Pittsburgh when the actions of Burfict and Jones cost their team the game. Trailing 16-15, the Steelers were trying desperately to get into field goal range, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger barely able to throw the ball because of a shoulder injury.
But after a Roethlisberger pass sailed incomplete over the head of receiver Antonio Brown, Burfict came in late and hard with a hit to Brown’s head. That cost the Bengals 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
While Brown was on the ground injured, Jones got into an on-field confrontation with Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, during which Jones appears to have shoved Porter and inadvertently bumped into an official. The result was a second 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct -- and a suddenly easy 35-yard field goal attempt, which Steelers kicker Chris Boswell nailed for a 18-16 Steelers victory.
After the game, Burfict took questions at his locker but answered almost all of them with the phrase “I don’t know,” not exactly owning up to his role in his team’s loss. Meanwhile, Jones stormed out of the locker room after a “brief, profanity-laced rant," according to NFL.com.
Jones went on to post a video on social media, during which he used plenty of expletives to blame the referees for the loss. He later replaced that video with one of himself appearing much calmer, saying, “I still don’t think I should’ve gotten a flag.”
All Burfict and Jones had to do was maintain their composure for 18 seconds and their team would have a game this weekend. Yet, neither of them came close to accepting responsibility for their actions.
Those two and Walsh all may have blown it on the field this weekend, but Burfict and Jones blew it afterward as well.