Matt Prater is one of the greatest kickers in NFL history and a significant part of his resume has been his ability to drill field goals from long distance.
That’s why the start of this season has been so frustrating for the Detroit Lions kicker.
Prater has missed two of his five field goal attempts, one from 55 yards and another from 57. For even the best kickers, attempts from that far can be a coin flip. Still, special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs said the veteran isn’t dealing well with the blown opportunities.
“I don’t know if you guys have had a chance to talk to Matt or not since the game, but I would just tell you that he’s probably two or three times harder on himself than I am on him,” Coombs said Tuesday. “He’s a perfectionist. He expects to make every single kick that he attempts, whether it’s 30 yards, 55 yards or 65 yards. That’s just his mindset. He goes out and he wants to make the kick.”
Prater is second in NFL history, trailing only Sebastian Janikowski, with 53 makes from 50 yards and beyond, converting on a staggering 74.6% of those attempts.
In the season-opener, Prater barely missed wide right on a 55-yard attempt in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, giving the Bears a short field that played a role in their ability to complete an improbable 17-point comeback. Against Green Bay, he wasn’t close on a 57-yarder at the end of the first half, also wide right, which would have tied the game.
“I mean he wanted to kick the ball before (Green Bay) had the penalty and it was going to be 62 (yards),” Coombs said. “I’m sure he would have been (angry) if he would have missed from 62. That’s just the way he’s wired. He’s a competitor. He’s no different than the rest of these guys. He’s frustrated with himself.
“I don’t think he’s discouraged,” Coombs continued. “I think he knows his number is going to continue to be called. I don’t feel any differently about him than I did two weeks ago. Those are two tough kicks, especially this past week. The conditions weren’t great and everything else wasn’t perfect, but Matt will be the first one to tell you he expects to make it and he’s frustrated that he didn’t.”
Coombs was asked if punter Jack Fox’s hold played a significant role in Prater’s miss on Sunday, and while he initially said no, Coombs noted there were shortcomings in every aspect of the operation — snap, hold and kick — that contributed to the mishit.
“I think (Prater) would be the first one to tell you that if the ball is down on the spot he expects to make it,” Coombs said. “I think all three of those guys, they have great chemistry together and they all rely on one another. I’m not going to get into specifics, but I think we’ll just leave it at all three of them could have been better on that play. They know that. Just like I talked about net punting taking 11 guys, kicking field goals is the same way and it’s led by the three specialists all being perfect and none of three of them were perfect on that play. They’ve all gotta be better and we will be on Sunday.”
Prater, 36, is in the last year of his current contract with the Lions. In parts of seven seasons with the franchise, he’s made 85.2% of his field-goal attempts, including 32 of 44 from 50 yards and beyond.