Chicago — Matt Prater holds the NFL record with a 64-yard field goal. He holds the Detroit Lions’ franchise mark with a 58-yard boot. And he’s one of only two guys in league history to make 10 kicks from 55 yards and beyond.
But in the near-freezing temperatures and swirling winds at Soldier Field, his range was set significantly shorter than usual. No one would provide the exact number, other than to suggest it varied throughout the game, depending on the conditions and the direction the Lions were going.
“The wind in here is crazy, it kind of swirls,” Prater said. “It almost feels like you’re going into the wind, both directions.”
Whatever the line was, it was shorter than 52 yards. But with the outcome hanging in the balance, tied with under two minutes remaining, coach Jim Caldwell looked at the veteran kicker on the sidelines and decided to attempt it anyway.
“I looked own at the end and he gave me that look like, ‘I’ve got it,’” Caldwell said. “I said, ‘OK, lets go.’ He did a nice job.”
According to Prater, he got every bit of the kick, but it still just barely cleared the crossbar in the 27-24 victory.
“It’s fun to get those opportunities, especially a more difficult kick,” Prater said. “It’s just fun to get a shot at those. I expect to make them.”
Prater’s numbers in the clutch are remarkable. He’s 17-for-17 on field goal attempts of 50 or more yards in the fourth quarter. And on kicks that could tie the game or give his team the lead in the final frame, he’s never missed in his career.
“He’s incredible,” Caldwell said. “You even look through the years, we’ve come from behind in a bunch of different games and had to win them at the end and he’s been a huge part of that.”