Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

London — Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh, Matthew Stafford and Reggie Bush are the Lions' most popular players, but on Sunday, there's a good chance the offensive and defensive players won't receive the loudest cheers at Wembley Stadium.

Instead, kicker Matt Prater and punter Sam Martin could be the apple of the English crowd's eye.

"They love the kicking, so hopefully Sam and I both have good games so we don't get boo birds out instead," Prater said.

The market for American football is rapidly growing in England, but soccer is still the king. Passes, runs, fumbles, interceptions and tackles pump up the crowd most in the U.S., but many British fans will scream for the kicks.

"Whether I get no cheers or a ton of cheers, I've still got to do my thing," Martin said. "It'll be interesting to see. I think it'll be cool to see if the place erupts on a punt."

Prater kicked for the Denver Broncos in London in 2010 and recalls the excitement when he took the field, saying his plays drew louder cheers than any other play. As Prater said, though, he'll have to make his kicks.

News of the Lions' field-goal troubles in 2014 made it across the pond. During the NFL's fan rally at Trafalgar Square Saturday, the emcee joked, "I'm actually quite nervous. … I feel like a Detroit Lion kicking a field goal.

Prater is already the third Lions' kicker this season after Nate Freese and Alex Henery were cut after making a combined 4 of 12 field goals the first five games. The former Broncos kicker hasn't been perfect yet, either, going 1-for-3 in windy conditions in Minnesota in Week 6 and needing a bounce off the upright on a 21-yard make last week.

"I just got in tight on it I think and it went off my ankle instead of my foot," Prater said of the short kick. "Luckily it bounced in, but in another month or so, no one will remember that it hit the pole. So that's fine with me."

Now in his third week with the Lions, Prater said he's still working to be totally comfortable with his snapper and holder, but that aspect of the game is improving. He also had to shake off some rust after going six weeks without kicking while he participated in a 12-step recovery program for alcohol addiction.

Lucky for Prater, the field conditions at Wembley will be better this time as it's now a mix of turf and grass as opposed to just grass.

Martin, meanwhile, has looked perfectly comfortable this season on punts and kickoffs. Of his 30 kickoffs this season, 24 have been touchbacks. On punts, Martin ranks fourth in the NFL with a 48.1-yard gross average and sixth with a 41.9-yard net average.

Martin's performance will be crucial Sunday to prevent Falcons return man Devin Hester from adding to his NFL-record 20 return touchdowns.

"He's undoubtedly the best to ever do it, so that's definitely something you consider," he said. "But just like I've said with every other guy we've faced, they're all dangerous and you don't want to give any of them an easy returnable ball on kickoffs or punts."

And while the kicks will be exciting for the crowd, Sunday's game will also be special for Martin. Like most punters, he grew up playing soccer, and even though he doesn't follow the sport much now, he's looking forward to playing in the historic stadium.

"If you would've asked me however many years ago, I probably would've said I would never see Wembley, so it's definitely cool," he said. "If I ever was to play, I would've never guessed it would be American football, which makes it even cooler."