Detroit Lions keeping faith in K Matt Prater despite long misses: ‘The sky is not falling’

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Lions kicker Matt Prater is the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history on field goal attempts of 50-plus yards, but this year the Lord of Long Distance has been less than himself.

Prater has made nine of 12 field goals this season, but is 0 for 3 on kicks longer than 50 yards.

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He missed a 57-yarder wide left in last week’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and pushed kicks of 55 and 57 yards wide right in season-opening losses to the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

“It’s a very unique situation,” Lions special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs said. “He hasn’t missed a kick this season under 55 yards, so I certainly would not say that he’s struggling by any stretch. Having said that, his goal is to go out and make 100% of his kicks. So he’s frustrated that he hasn’t hit those three long ones.”

Prater is a perfect 14 for 14 on extra points this season, and several of his made field goals have come at key times in games. In Week 3, he drilled fourth quarter field goals of 35 and 39 yards, the latter coming as time expired to give the Lions their first win of the season.

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But the Lions also turned down a 58-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter of the Cardinals game — something Prater said was “the right call, for sure” — and his Week 1 miss gave the Bears the field position they needed to spark a comeback.

At 36 years old, Prater has not lacked for distance on any of his kicks, and given his history — his 53 50-plus-yarders are the second most in NFL history, and he was 7 of 8 on kicks of 50 or longer last year — Coombs said he is not worried about fixing Prater’s psyche.

“He wants to go out and make every kick, but when he doesn’t, I’m not on the flight back thinking about, ‘Wow, what kind of YouTube video do I need to pull up to try to get him back on track?'” Coombs said. “It’s just not like that. This is a real, genuine relationship and those things kind of just take care of themselves. Hopefully he feels the same way. I’m pretty sure that he does.”

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Oddly, while Prater entered the season as the most accurate kicker in NFL history from 50-plus yards and has struggled only from distance this season — his made percentage on 50-yard kicks has dropped to 73.6% (53 of 72) from 76.8% in five games — Stephen Gostkowski, the kicker who passed him on that list (74.4%), is 4 for 4 on 50-plus yarders this year and 5 for 10 on shorter kicks.

Coombs chalked the misses up to life as an NFL kicker, and said he won’t hesitate to call on Prater going forward.

“The sky is not falling right now,” Coombs said. “It is not a situation where we’re going back and trying to reinvent the wheel. Matt has done this for a long time. He’s one of the best kickers all-time on field goals over 50 yards. So I think he’s going to be just fine. Same as I told you guys the last time this came up, I still have the same amount of confidence in him to go make the next long one as I did prior to Sunday.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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