Orchard Park, N.Y. — Matt Prater is as clutch as they come.
He’s made a living on banging home field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime. In fact, the Detroit Lions kicker had never missed a kick that would have tied the game or given his team the lead in the fourth quarter or overtime during his 12-year career.
That came to an end against Buffalo on Sunday.
A combination of misjudging the conditions and poorly striking the ball did in Prater’s string of perfection, as his 48-yard boot sailed wide right with under six minutes remaining, preserving the Bills’ 14-13 lead.
“I just didn’t hit it,” Prater said. “I didn’t hit it where I wanted to hit it. I don’t have an excuse. I let everybody down, including myself. I expect to make those kicks, and I have in the past, so it’s frustrating any time you don’t come through when you have a big opportunity for your team.”
The kick wasn’t struck with Prater’s normal power, but it still had the distance. The bigger issue was the direction of the kick, which started right and stayed right throughout its flight.
Playing outdoors, Prater spent plenty of time before the game and during halftime trying to get a feel for the stadium’s wind patterns, but they didn’t hold true during the fourth-quarter effort.
And the issue was compounded by a bad strike, which pushed it farther from the path Prater envisioned when he lined up for the potential game-winning effort.
“Hindsight is 20/20, but pregame the wind was going right to left in that direction, so I played it right, and then I pushed it a little… and it didn’t come back at all for me,” he explained. “Looking back, I wish I would’ve played it right down the middle instead of a little to the right because I did mishit it a little bit, but that’s part of the game.”
The miss comes as Prater is in the midst of another stellar season for the Lions, making 24 of his 27 attempts coming into the game, including 15 straight.
During his five seasons with the Lions, he’s made 85.9 percent of his field goal attempts, including 25 of 34 from 50 yards and beyond.