Anybody who golfs will admit that the simple sight and sound of the ball rolling into the cup on the green can help even the worst putters gain confidence and turn their entire game around.
Kicking, oddly enough, is a similar type of performance art.
With this in mind, the suddenly curious case of Matt Prater is presented. In 2013, Prater was statistically one of the more elite kickers in the league, nailing the majority of his attempts for the Denver Broncos. Then, some off the field problems returned, and Prater was forced away from the field prior to the beginning of this season for six weeks, a long length of time for a kicker.
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That, he maintains, has contributed to some of his stunning newfound accuracy problems with the Lions, making Prater start to look like a far cry from the consistent kicker he was during his years in Denver. This from Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
"Prater, who sat out the first month of the year while serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse, said some of his struggles are due to the nearly six weeks he took off from kicking while he was suspended and in alcohol rehab.“I wouldn’t say (the rust is gone) completely,” Prater said. “But I definitely feel like I’ve gotten better and better as the weeks have gone by.”"
Before Sunday, a day in which Prater was a perfect 3-3 on kicks attempted, he had been erratic early with Detroit, missing from his usually automatic distances. Against the New Orleans Saints, Prater even comically banged a 21 yard attempt off the uprights. The kick ricocheted through, but to a kicker and his fans, it still felt like lipping out a 10 inch putt straight up the hill.
Sunday’s game winning make, however, should help mend Prater’s slightly shaken confidence dramatically. With the game on the line and a cratered field, Prater was able to make good from 48 yards and allow his team to win. Regardless of the wide right miss on his first attempt, Prater shook off the slice admirably in short order to connect for the win moments later.
That’s something for the kicker to build upon, especially considering his next kicking exhibition after the bye will come in the perfect conditions of Ford Field’s dome. Two straight perfect weeks would help the mind as much as the body in Prater’s case, and allow the kicker to quit thinking about fundamentals and just stroke the ball to the target without worry like he’s been used to doing.
Two straight perfect weeks would help the mind as much as the body in Prater’s case, and allow the kicker to quit thinking about fundamentals and just stroke the ball to the target without worry like he’s been used to doing.
A game winning kick can always prove big for the mental confidence of an entire team, but in the case of a kicker struggling to regain consistency, it could be even bigger. Thankfully, for both himself and the Lions, Prater’s kick sailed through at the time when it needed to most last weekend.
Don’t be surprised if that one clutch boot helps Prater achieve better things as his season of rediscovery continues.