After a brief reprieve over the 4th of July holiday weekend, our “Gaining The Extra Edge” series continues today, as we identify 5 players (not including obvious stars such as Jared Allen or Brett Favre) who hold the key to the Vikings gaining the extra edge in 2010. We’ve tagged a pair of CBs and a WR so far, but #2 on the list is a special teams ace – K Ryan Longwell.
Longwell’s clutch and reliable kicking has been both comforting and key for the Vikings during their back-to-back division championship run in 2008 and 2009 and those traits have also made Longwell’s signing via free agency one of the best transactions during Head Coach Brad Childress’ tenure with the club. It was Longwell’s game-winning 50-yard FG against the NY Giants in Week 17 of the 2008 season that clinched a division title and then a career-best season from #8 was vital to the 2009 division title.
Speaking of game-winners and 50-yard FGs, they have been specialties of Longwell’s career. The 14-year veteran ranks 2nd in team history with 7 game-winning FGs and has 16 career game-winners. He also holds the Vikings career record with 9 FGs of 50+ yards.
Longwell enters the 2010 season coming off a career year in 2009 where he posted a career-best 132 points and moved to 15th in NFL history with 1,502 career points. He connected on 26 of 28 (92.9%) FG tries – the highest mark of his career – and was named Vikings Special Teams MVP in a vote by his teammates. In a display of his remarkable consistency, Longwell had a streak of 16 straight FGs made from a Week 5 game at St. Louis to a Week 14 game vs. Cincinnati.
In 2010 Longwell should be even more zeroed in on his FG kicking game because the Vikings acquired Rhys Lloyd to handle kickoff duties, allowing #8 to hone in on FGs and PATs. Longwell’s ability to come through in both routine and clutch situations gives the Vikings offense a license to be aggressive in the opponent’s territory.
In what will likely be a tight division race in a competitive NFC, Longwell’s clutch and reliable kicking will be vital and will give the Vikings that extra edge in 2010.
Tags: Ryan Longwell
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