Kalil mastering a lost Vikings art

Matt Kalil (John Emms/Viking Update)

Matt Kalil admits being 6-foot-7 helps him block kicks, but there is some method to his technique that made him successful doing it in college, too.

At 6-foot-7, it's hard to miss Matt Kalil in the middle of the Vikings locker room. As it turns out, it's pretty hard to miss him in the middle of the Vikings line when other teams are attempting field goals or extra points.

Like much of the Vikings success, the glory days of blocking kicks dates back to Bud Grant's Vikings of yesteryear. Alan Page was the first to make blocking field goals and extra points an art form. Matt Blair took that mantle over and used his athleticism to become a kick-blocking specialist. Grant still holds a grudge against Don Shula, who was the only active coach at the time on the NFL's competition committee. Grant said that, once the Vikings blocked a pair of kicks against Shula's Dolphins, the Miami coach spearheaded the movement to outlaw the Vikings' practice of having players drop on all fours and have a teammate stand on his back and launch himself upward to block the kick.

But, in recent years, the Vikings have become less than stellar in blocking kicks. In fact, with the exception of a player occasionally waving his arms in an attempt to distract a kicker, it's rare when the Vikings would get close to blocking a field goal or extra point attempt. Expect that to change, thanks to Kalil.

Kalil got the first Vikings blocked kick in three years when he got a hand on Josh Scobee's extra point when the Vikings trailed 9-0 late in the first half. He said he had to convince the Vikings coaching staff to even allow him on the kick block team.

"When I came to the Vikings, that was one of the first things that I told them – that I wanted to be on the field goal and extra point teams," Kalil said. "I had seven blocks at USC and it's something I think I do pretty well. I had to kind of talk them into letting me do it. They didn't want me to at first. I get it. They weren't sure it was worth the risk to have me on special teams, but I was able to convince them that I could do a good job for us and help the team."

A review of Sunday's game shows that Kalil's block of Scobee's extra point may be the first of many he gets as a Viking.

Kalil's timing of getting a forward push on the line, setting himself and jumping straight up to get a hand up to attempt to block a kick was uncanny Sunday. Not only did Kalil get the block on the second quarter extra point, he came within inches of blocking two field goals in Sunday's game.

"It's all about timing," Kalil said. "You know you have about two seconds from the snap to get a push, try to get penetration over the line and jump. There isn't a lot of time to prepare. It's just about trying to get into a position where you can get a finger or a hand on the ball as it comes by."

While it wasn't clearly obvious other than the one kick he got, you can rest assured Vikings opponents will be taking notice of big No. 75 when field goals and extra points are being kicked.

TUESDAY NOTES

  • Sunday's win by the Vikings was the first time an NFL rule was put into practice in the regular season. Both teams now get at least one possession in overtime in a regular season game if the team who gets the ball first doesn't score a touchdown on its opening drive.

  • Vikings players claimed they never gave up on winning Sunday's game, but owner Zygi Wilf may have been the most surprised. As is habit, owners will leave the owners box at the end of games to be in the locker room with their team – win or lose. As Wilf emerged from the locker room, it was hard to disguise his ear-to-ear grin. The first thing he said as he emerged was "Whew!" wiping his hand across his forehead in disbelief. When Jacksonville scored the go-ahead touchdown with 20 seconds left, Wilf went through the press box to get down to the Vikings locker room and likely missed the two completions that set up the game-tying field goal. Suffice it to say Wilf's expression (and smile) was markedly different as he headed to the lower level of the Metrodome.

  • What may have been lost in Christian Ponder's impressive passing day was that, with 2:30 to play in the first half, Ponder had completed just three of seven passes for 32 yards. From that point on, Ponder completed 17 of 20 passes for 238 yards.

  • Ponder's passer rating of 105.5 was the best single-game rating of his career. In 10 starts last year, he had just two games with a passer rating of higher than 100.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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