Detroit – With the way the season has unfolded, kicker Matt Prater sensed the Lions’ defense would find a way to get the ball back in the final minute against the Vikings.
After booting a 48-yard field goal to tie the game 13-13 with 1:45 left, Prater kicked a couple of balls into the net on the sideline to stay loose just in case another opportunity arose.
And it did.
One play after the Vikings were called for an illegal formation that wiped out what would’ve been a first down, cornerback Darius Slay came up with a game-changing interception with 38 seconds left.
Slay stepped in front of Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford’s intended pass for receiver Adam Thielen and returned it 13 yards to put the Lions within field-goal range at the Minnesota 20-yard line.
Matthew Stafford took one snap and moved the ball over to the left hash, setting the stage for Prater’s 40-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Lions to a wild 16-13 Thanksgiving Day win at Ford Field.
“The way our games have gone this year, I kind of had a feeling something like that was going to happen,” Prater said. “(Slay) made a big play and set it up and we did our part.
“It's fun. It's a part of the game and as a kicker, you live for those big moments like that. It's fun to get an opportunity to kick them and we've been successful so far this year."
Prater also had a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter to finish 3-for-3 for the game and improve to 21-for-24 on the season. More importantly, he’s a perfect 25-for-25 in game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career.
“I don’t think you can ever say anything is automatic,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said, “but he’s as good as they come in those situations.”
It was Prater’s second crucial field goal against the Vikings – joining his 58-yarder as time expired that forced overtime in a Week 9 win – and his fourth game-winner on the year.
He hit a 43-yarder with four seconds left in Week 1 against the Colts, a 29-yarder with 1:28 left in Week 5 against the Eagles, and a 34-yarder with 1:29 left in Week 6 against the Rams.
“I don’t know if I’d say ice cold veins. I have a lot of confidence in what we’re doing as far as a unit with guys up front,” Prater said. “(Don Muhlbach) snapping, Sam (Martin) holding and I just have a lot of confidence where I don’t doubt myself.
“I basically have the same mindset as an extra point in the first quarter, where I don’t go out and ever expect that I’m not going to make the kick, so maybe I’ve been a little luckier. In the final two minutes of games in tying or winning kicks, I try not to overanalyze it too much and hope the most important kick is always the next one.”