Matt Prater's booming extra point provides more than footnote in Lions' victory
From the time that the Atlanta Falcons scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:04 left, Lions kicker Matt Prater thought he had an idea of what was coming next. In his six-plus seasons, he’s seen Matthew Stafford lead last-minute drives that put the Lions in position for a clinching field goal.
This time, though, the Lions didn’t need a Prater field goal; they trailed by six points with the precious seconds ticking away and with a touchdown, Prater’s standard 33-yard extra point would be the potential game-winner.
It didn’t turn out that way.
After Stafford engineered the tying touchdown drive, the Lions got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for their celebration, pushing the extra point — and the degree of difficulty — back an extra 15 yards.
No problem for Prater. He converted the kick, the Lions escaped with a 23-22 win and improved to 3-3 this season. It was anything but normal for Prater, who has his share of long field goals and game-winning kicks in his illustrious career.
He tried to put Sunday’s kick into perspective with his best feats.
“For me, that's up there at the top, especially since it's an extra point. The distance doesn't matter; you're supposed to make that every time — it just happened to be a really far extra point,” Prater said Monday. “That's definitely the farthest extra point I've ever attempted in my life. It was crazy and I'm happy we came through and we got the win.”
Prater, one of the most accurate and proficient kickers in NFL history on field goals of 50-plus yards, already had missed a 46-yard field goal Sunday. Rather than letting the miss linger, Prater already had shaken it off, with another opportunity presenting itself in the final minute.
That’s when the routine with kicks into the practice netting — but he couldn’t watch the final drive because he had to get his kicks in to prepare for a potential game-winner. While Prater practiced, T.J. Hockenson hauled in the tying touchdown with no time remaining, his teammates unwittingly made his job harder because of their excessive exuberance.
“Any time we get the ball with Stafford and a minute or less. I'm always confident we're going to score, so I started kicking in the net and some guys let their emotions get the best of them and started celebrating, so it backed it up,” Prater said. “I basically treated it like a long field goal and swung hard and it went through.”
Initially, Prater thought the penalty would make it just a 38-yard try, but when the officials continued counting off the yards, he got a better sense of how much more difficult it would be.
“I guess I should know the rules better — I thought they were going to back it up five yards at first and then when they kept going and I realized, ‘Oh, man, this is a pretty far kick,’” Prater said. “You treat it the same, as far as you expect to make every kick and a little further kick, you should still be swinging about the same and hope it stays straight.”
Seeing — or not seeing — Stafford lead last-minute drives doesn’t get old, but those instances aren’t as frequent as they were earlier in his career. It’s still something for some of the young Lions to see and to participate in the jubilation.
“It's just crazy,” Prater said. “I've seen me do it so many times and I think everyone was so excited on the sideline maybe because some of the younger guys hadn't seen him do it yet.”
Not tipping hand
With the NFL trade deadline approaching on Nov. 3, the Lions are in a position where they can contend for a playoff spot, and therefore could be looking to make deals to improve the roster.
There are positional needs, but coach Matt Patricia isn’t publicly leaning either way on what the Lions might choose to do.
“I don’t know if I can really predict anything that’s going to happen going forward. I know that for us, we’re always going to try to do whatever we can to help our team get better,” Patricia said. “Sometimes those situations — in particular, trades — it takes both parties, and everyone involved. I don’t know. We’ll see how all that goes.”