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One of the best long-range kickers in NFL history, Matt Prater has had some uncharacteristic struggles this season.
But Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said last week his confidence in his kicker has not waned, and Prater rewarded his coach’s faith Sunday by making the game-winning 59-yard field goal as time expired in a 30-27 victory over Washington.
“For me personally, any time you’re not making every field goal, it can be frustrating,” Prater said. “But all you can do is do your best and keep trying and figure out what the issues are, so they don’t repeat. … We’ve had too many misses this year already, so I’m hoping that today is a start in the right direction.”
Prater made a 53-yard field goal just before halftime Sunday, and hit a 37-yarder with 2:37 to play to give the Lions a 27-24 lead.
Washington tied the game with 16 seconds left on a 41-yard kick by Dustin Hopkins, and the Lions played for a long field goal rather than throw a Hail Mary to the end zone after reaching midfield with 6 seconds to play.
“Outstanding execution,” Patricia said. “I give the players all the credit on the field and then obviously to give us a chance and get Matt Prater out there, we were waiting for it and it was awesome. Just really, really happy for everybody.”
Prater, who was 6-of-12 on kicks of 40-plus yards entering Sunday, said he spent the week working on some kicking fundamentals in an effort to snap out of his funk.
He made a game-winning field goal earlier this season against the Arizona Cardinals, and hit a 48-yard extra point in the Lions’ Week 7 win over the Atlanta Falcons, but had bad misses each of the last two weeks.
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On Sunday’s winning attempt, Prater said he approached it “the same as any other kick.”
“Just go out and swing hard and hope it goes straight type (of) thing,” he said. “I don’t need any more pressure on myself or think that it’s anything more than it is. It’s just a field goal.”
Poo-pooing playoff talk
The Lions, as unrealistic as it seems, remain in the NFC playoff hunt with seven games to play.
They visit the Carolina Panthers next week and host the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving, both teams with sub-.500 records.
Asked Sunday if he thought his team was a playoff team, Patricia said he just wanted to focus on the win.
“I mean, we’re just going to keep it in the world of one week at a time here right now,” he said. “Really great job by our team today. The players executed when they had to at the end, and we know we have another tough opponent this week. We’ll enjoy this one for just a little bit and then we have to get back to work.”
Matthew Stafford played one of his best games of the season Sunday, completing 24 of 33 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns, despite injuring the thumb on his right (throwing) hand in the first half.
Stafford appeared to hurt his thumb on a first quarter sack that was nullified by a penalty after Kevin Pierre-Louis lowered his helmet while delivering a hit.
Trainers taped Stafford’s thumb after the series, and Stafford returned to the field shaking and flexing his hand.
“I’ve got to go get it looked at,” he said after the game. “I don’t know what happened. It was on a play where I got sacked, they had a personal foul, so the next time I gripped the ball to throw it, it didn’t feel so hot.”
Contact Dave Birkett at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.