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January 11, 2018

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Nervous Vikings fans might be making a list of worries about their favorite team, as kickoff nears for Sunday’s game against the Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff game since 2010 and near the top of some worrywart lists could be the effectiveness of placekicker Kai Forbath.

Memories (nightmares) of Blair Walsh’s late-game field goal miss two years ago linger with both normal and neurotic fans. Walsh’s 27-yard miss cost the Vikings a win in their first round NFC playoff game in 2016. The miscue placed him in the Purple Hall of Infamy after the Seahawks defeated Minnesota 10-9.

Forbath isn’t seeking such club membership on Sunday in another opening NFC playoff game for Minnesota. Forbath realizes he and new long snapper Jeff Overbaugh need to execute when called upon against New Orleans.

“These are very important games and very well could come down to a field goal, or one point,” Forbath said. “Always go out there and try to score points whenever I get the opportunity.”

Mike Zimmer

Overbaugh is a rookie free agent signee who made his debut in the last game of the season, replacing Kevin McDermott who was placed on the injured reserve list. “He’s done good, we haven’t had any issues at all,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said of Overbaugh.

Forbath, 30, caused some nail-biting earlier this season on extra points. In the first two games of the season he missed two of four extra point attempts. Then he went through a stretch of two games in late October where he converted one of three. In the last eight games of the season, though, he made 22 of 23 attempts.

Forbath said he didn’t change his technique to improve his extra point kicking. “We don’t even call them extra points,” Forbath said. “We call them field goals—33 yard field goal. We just focus like a field goal. Can’t take anything for granted. Just a little bit of extra focus, I think that’s helped.”

Starting with the 2015 season the NFL moved the line of scrimmage for extra points from the two-yard line to the 15. “The old extra point you could take for granted,” Forbath said. “You didn’t really have to hit a perfect ball and focus as much, so I just treat it like a field goal and it’s worked.”

The majority of NFL kickers converted 90 percent of their extra points, with a few of them perfect at 100 percent. Forbath compares better against his peers in field goals. Only five NFL kickers totaled more than his 32. He had six misses in 38 attempts after making all 15 of his attempts for the Vikings in 2016. In his last three games this season he converted on five of six attempts, including makes of 53 and 49 yards.

The Vikings signed Forbath as a free agent in November of 2016. The last team that employed him was the Saints who released him in September of 2016 as part of final roster cuts. “It was kind of shocking but it’s not the first time something shocking has happened to me in this league,” said Forbath who has also kicked for the Redskins. “It’s a business and everything happens for a reason.”

If given the opportunity, worrisome Vikings fans hope Forbath will be part of the reason their team advances against New Orleans to the NFC championship game.

Worth Noting

Saints fans have incentive to see their heroes win on Sunday. Not only did their team lose to the Vikings in the regular season opener, but a few years ago Minnesota’s bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl beat out New Orleans.

Dave Mona

There will be familiar voices at U.S. Bank Stadium for the February 4 Super Bowl. Dave Mona, who for 42 years has been the press box announcer for Vikings games, will have the same assignment February 4. Vikings public address announcer Alan Roach, who has also worked many previous Super Bowls, will be the P.A. man for the big game in Minneapolis.

Running back Latavius Murray made his Vikings debut against the Saints after being signed in the offseason as a free agent. Murray was sidelined and his progress slowed in training camp because of an ankle injury. He said he hadn’t received enough practice repetitions going into the September 11 game against New Orleans. He rushed for six yards on two carries and fumbled on his first run. “I just don’t think it was me,” Murray told Sports Headliners this week.

Murray’s power and Jerick McKinnon’s speed have given the Vikings an effective combination at running back. The two have rushed for 1,412 yards.

The Vikings will face future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday. Although he turns 39 next Monday, he is still playing at a high level and had a gaudy 115.2 passer rating in last weekend’s win over the Panthers. The Vikings will counter with Case Keenum who has never started a playoff game in his six-year pro career.

“I just think we can’t get caught up in it, veteran quarterback and our quarterback, and comparing the two,” Murray said. “I think we have to focus on the things that have got us to this point (and) the things that we have been doing well. …This chance to play at home versus a really good team.”

Vikings reserve wide receiver Michael Floyd has been on rosters of playoff teams in Arizona and New England. What are his concerns about Brees? “You just gotta make sure you don’t turn over the ball offensively and play sound football, because you can’t give a great quarterback like Drew Brees the ball more times than what he should—because at one point he’s going to do something great like he always does.”

Murray was with the Raiders for four seasons and that franchise is relocating to Las Vegas in a couple of years. Does he think the move will be a downer for the players?

“I know they get to save money, so they can’t be too sad about that,” Murray said about playing in Nevada where there is no state income tax.

Floyd will vacation in Australia starting in late February and will be travelling to other countries, too. “That’s all I am going to be doing, travelling and golfing,” said Floyd with a handicap “about 10” and who plays at Oak Ridge in Hopkins.

Adrian Peterson, who played for the Vikings from 2007-2016, was with the Saints when they played the Vikings on September 11 but the legendary running back was traded to New Orleans in early October. Now the Vikings or Saints could earn their way to the Super Bowl, an ultimate prize Peterson has targeted.

“I know Adrian, and he is probably not the happiest guy in the world, you know, but God has a plan for everybody, so you just always have to remember that,” Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright told Sports Headliners.

The Capital Club will have former Viking center Matt Birk, who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2013, as its speaker next Tuesday at Town & Country Club in St. Paul. More information about the Capital Club is available from Patrick Klinger, patrickklinger@klingercompany.com.

Alabama won its fifth national championship in nine years with its victory over Georgia on Monday night. The Gophers program hasn’t won a Big Ten title in over 50 years.

The Super60 Showcase during January starts Saturday with boys and girls high school basketball games at Maple Grove and Osseo. The showcase involves 54 prep teams and 27 games at five Twin Cities sites playing on four dates through January 27.

Four varsity boys games are scheduled at Maple Grove High School Saturday, with the first starting at 2:55 p.m.—Fridley and St. Paul Johnson. Four varsity girls games, and one varsity boys game, will be played at Osseo High School Saturday. The Anoka and St. Paul Como girls lead off the schedule starting at 11:35 a.m. All games in January will be streamed via www.PrepSpotlight.TV.

The Hamline women’s hockey team has a top 10 ranking for the first time in program history. The Pipers are No. 10 in the latest D3hockey.com poll and have a 10-2-1 record. Hamline is coached by former Gopher player and Olympic medalist Natalie Darwitz.

It will be 50 years next Monday that former North Star Bill Masterton tragically died. He passed away the day after hitting his head on the ice in a game at Met Center.

The Herb Brooks Foundation and John Gunderson Memorial will benefit Friday night by appearances from hockey legends Henry Boucha, Bill Butters and Jack Carlson who will sign autographs at the Portside restaurant in Stillwater.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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