| Detroit Free Press
Debating the Darrell Bevell narrative and the Detroit Lions’ future
Good-natured debate on the Darrell Bevell narrative after the Lions’ comeback over Bears, Matt Patricia’s culture and what’s next, Dec. 8, 2020.
The first thing to go for a kicker is usually leg strength, and Matt Prater has shown no signs of losing that in what mostly has been a difficult year.
All four of Prater’s missed 50-plus-yard field goals this season — from 55, 57, 57 and 51 yards — have had plenty of distance but sailed wide left or right of the uprights.
“I can tell you guys that Matt Prater has not lost his fastball,” Detroit Lions special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs said Tuesday. “He can still crush the ball. We’ve talked all year about he’s had a little bit of inconsistencies with the field goals, but make no mistake about it, the guy still has a cannon for a leg so I’m not worried about that right now.”
What Prater has struggled with is accuracy.
With four games to play, he has made his lowest percentage of kicks (18 of 25; 72%) since his first NFL season, when he made just one of four tries in a two-game stint with the Atlanta Falcons.
Coombs said earlier this season he did not believe Prater’s struggles were mental. And while he allowed Tuesday that “certainly a guy can start to lose confidence or kind of lose that mental edge and mental focus” as he ages, which contributes to accuracy issues, that does not seem to be the case with the 36-year-old Prater, either.
“One of my favorite things about Matt Prater is he is not a nervous personality,” Coombs said. “He’s wired very much almost like a non-specialist football player. He does a great job of just kind of going with the flow and staying present in the moment and compartmentalizing things.”
Prater has made some of the most clutch kicks in the NFL this season.
He drilled a 48-yard extra point to beat the Atlanta Falcons in October, and he has made two game-winning field goals — from 39 and 59 yards — as time expired to beat the Arizona Cardinals and Washington, respectively.
Twice, after the Washington and Arizona games, he was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
But he also is 4 of 7 on kicks between 40 and 49 yards, and he missed an extra point off the right upright in a win over the Chicago Bears last week.
All of that has made Prater’s struggles more difficult both to comprehend and explain.
“I’m frustrated with his percentage right now. He and I are frustrated with it together,” Coombs said. “But I think it goes back to, a lot of it’s been the situations and the attempts that we’ve taken. He hasn’t missed one under 40 yet. Not that that’s the bar for an NFL kicker, but the numbers are what they are.”
While Prater and Coombs work together to get the most accurate long-distance kicker in NFL history straightened out, the reality is that Prater could be down to his final four games as a Lion.
After seven seasons in Detroit, Prater will be a free agent in March and there is no telling if the next Lions regime will want him back.
Coombs said he remains steadfast in his belief in Prater — the Lions contemplating sending Prater out for a 65-yard kick late in the first half against the Bears last week — and he said Prater “has enough of a track record that he’s going to have options on the field next year” regardless of what happens in Detroit.
“We’re frustrated with the misses, but I’m just telling you guys, I feel like I say this every week, but you line up a kicker draft across the NFL, he’s going in the top half of the league still,” Coombs said. “Make no mistake about it. We just got to get him back on track and finish the year strong and hopefully the numbers look better at the end of the year.”