Belief in Greg Joseph Has Paid Off

Belief in Greg Joseph Has Paid Off
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) and head coach Kevin O'Connell celebrate the win after the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Early on in the 2022 Minnesota Vikings season it looked as though kicking would again be a bugaboo for a franchise that has heard the refrain all too often. Greg Joseph was a returning veteran who had slid from his modest 2021 numbers and allowing that to sink a winning team seemed daunting. Good thing Kevin O’Connell and the organization remained patient.

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When coming in as general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could’ve opted to make a change at the kicker position. Joseph was hardly automatic a season ago. Then again, the Vikings previously thought they had things figured out by grabbing an all-time great in the form of Dan Bailey, and they had already looked to stop the revolving door missing the uprights.

You don’t have to go back to Gary Anderson’s 1998 miss to feel heartbreak. Blair Walsh destroyed Minnesota fans at TCF Bank Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks, and Mike Zimmer hastily cut Daniel Carlson only to watch him ascend as among the game’s best kickers. That could’ve been the same fate suffered by Joseph, but this regime chose patience and trust.

The State of the Vikings: Week 16
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

From Week 3-7 this year, Joseph missed at least one kick in each contest. That stretch saw him go just 13-of-16 on extra-point attempts, and an even worse 6-for-11 when trying for three points. After hitting from a career-best 56 yards against the Packers during Week 1, there was no denying that things took a wrong turn very quickly.

Over the course of the five weeks in which Joseph missed kicks, Minnesota won games by less than one possession in all of them. Despite emerging victorious, they were overcoming hurdles placed in front of them by their own efforts.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) celebrates his game winning field goal against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Then something changed.

Since Week 9, Joseph has made 20-of-22 extra points while nailing each of his 13 field goal attempts. His field goal percentage on the season still remains a career low, and among the lowest in the NFL, but it has been how he has responded that has made all of the difference. When faced with a scenario in which he certainly knew his time was running out, a course was corrected.

That couldn’t have been more evident than in front of a whiteout crowd against the New York Giants on Saturday. Following a late screen play to Justin Jefferson, the Vikings hustled to the line and spiked it giving Joseph a chance to break his career best. Lining up past the logo, he was staring down the uprights at a 61-yard attempt. With the Giants putting a man deep in the end zone, leaving it short, or having it blocked could’ve been a catastrophe.

Instead, he banged it through.

As has been the case all season for Minnesota, the purple have continued to find a way to win. Even while playing less than ideal or complete games at times, they’ve racked up tallies in the column that matters. Joseph was the latest hero, hitting a franchise record kick, and if this season ends as others have not, it may be the boom that changes all of the bad luck.

For most of this season, leadership has been a theme in the transition since 2021. O’Connell, Adofo-Mensah, and the Vikings continued to uplift Joseph and believe in him. Nailing one of the biggest plays of the season, he made it all pay off.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.