High drama: Prater's 43-yard FG saves Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
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Lions kicker Matt Prater celebrates his game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter.

Indianapolis — As a rookie in 2012, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck beat the Detroit Lions on the final play of the game. This time, he made the mistake of giving the Lions an opportunity to respond.

Detroit kicker Matt Prater went from goat to hero, making a 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining to send the Lions to their fifth season-opening victory in six years. The Lions tacked on a safety during the final kickoff to walk away with a 39-35 victory.

It shouldn’t have been that difficult.

BOX SCORE: Lions 39, Colts 35

What looked like it might be an easy day at the office for the Lions turned into a tooth-and-nail struggle. For the second year in a row, the team blew an 18-point advantage in the season opener, but this time, managed to escape with the victory.

“Welcome to the National Football League,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Being on the road, it’s difficult to get a win.”

The Lions came out firing in the contest behind an effective and diverse offensive attack. The team punted just once during its four first-half possessions, scoring touchdowns the other three series on drives of 90, 82 and 75 yards.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford was efficient through two quarters, connecting on 14 of his 20 throws for 163 yards and a touchdown. He found six different receivers, including tight end Eric Ebron for a six-yard touchdown that put the Lions up 21-3 with 1:37 to go in the half.

Lions' Riddick proves he's worth the bucks

The Lions' first two touchdowns came on the ground. Theo Riddick capped the team’s first possession with a career-long 21-yard run around the left edge to give the Lions an early 7-0 advantage. Rookie Dwayne Washington expanded the lead to 14-0 in the second quarter, punching it in on his second attempt from the one-yard line.

But Detroit’s lead started to evaporate before the two sides even made it to the locker room. Following the Ebron touchdown, the Colts needed just 92 seconds to drive 75 yards. Luck completed all six of his throws on the drive, capped by a two-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Dontae Moncrief with just 5 seconds remaining.

The Colts maintained that momentum into the third quarter, forcing the Lions into a three-and-out on the opening possession, while the Indianapolis offense picked up right where it left off, driving 85 yards in 10 plays for another touchdown.

The big play from the series was a 51-yard bomb from Luck to speedy receiver Phillip Dorset. Cornerback Darius Slay had tight coverage on the play, but tripped just as the ball arrived.

Four plays later, Luck found tight end Dwayne Allen alone in the secondary for a 19-yard touchdown. The two connected again on the two-point conversion to cut the Lions’ lead to three, 21-18.

The teams traded three-and-outs before Detroit finally got back on track, behind the strong play of Ameer Abdullah. The Lions’ lead back opened the drive with a seven-yard run and an 18-yard reception, which went for 33 after a Colts defender grabbed the back’s face mask trying to make the tackle.

Abdullah caught two more passes on the drive, scampering into the end zone from 11 yards out to extend the lead back to 11, 28-18.

But once again, the double-digit advantage wasn’t safe.

The Colts made it a one-score game with a 40-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal, and after forcing another Lions’ three-and-out, drove 94 yards to knot the score at 28 with nine minutes remaining.

The Lions appeared to have Indianapolis stopped on the drive, forcing Luck out of bounds short of the marker on a third-down scramble, but veteran linebacker DeAndre Levy was hit with a taunting penalty that kept the possession alive.

Taunting penalty mars Levy's long-awaited return

The Lions regained their composure and regained the lead with a 75-yard touchdown drive. Stafford completed five passes, to five different receivers, for 64 yards. The quarterback connected on a dump off to Riddick who danced his way between Colts defenders to put the Lions back on top, 34-28, with 4:04 remaining. Then Prater missed the PAT, opening the door for what appeared to be another dose of heroics.

Luck led the Colts down the field 75 yards and found tight end Jack Doyle in the back of the end zone with just 37 seconds remaining. The PAT put Indianapolis up, 35-34.

With those 37 seconds, and three timeouts, Stafford completed three throws for 50 yards to set up Prater for the game-winner.

“We practice those situations all the time,” Caldwell said. “We usually practice that situation with no timeouts, so we felt pretty good about it.

“We knew if we had 30 some odd seconds left, particularly with enough timeouts under our belt, we knew we could get our self in field-goal range.”

The Lions will return home to face the Tennessee Titans (0-1) next Sunday.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @justin_rogers

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