Detroit Lions: Top 5 Matt Prater moments in Motown

Matt Prater, Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Matt Prater, Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /
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Matt Prater, Detroit Lions
Matt Prater, Detroit Lions (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images) /

1. Prater’s Detroit Lions origin story starts with a second chance in London.

Shortly after the retirement of Jason Hanson, another Lions kicking legend, Detroit’s field goal unit was having a rough time transitioning. After 21 years of Hanson’s reliable services, the kicking game was the biggest question mark of what was otherwise the Lions’ most stacked team in decades.

Through five games, the Lions had already released two kickers, Nate Freese and Alex Henery, who combined to shoot 4 for 12 on field goals throughout the first month. The prospect of a promising season being entirely ruined by woeful special teams was a real possibility when Prater was brought in as a last resort.

Just one season before, Prater had been a Pro Bowl selection and set the NFL record with a 64-yard field goal in Denver. Then released by the Broncos due to off-the-field concerns and suspended by the league at one point, falling into Detroit’s lap was very much Prater’s second chance at an NFL job. His first pressure situation as a Lion also came down to a fortunate second chance.

The 5-2 Lions, fresh off a chaotic 4th quarter comeback the week before, traveled across the Atlantic to play Atlanta in their first ever game in London. In a surreal environment at Wembley Stadium, the Lions fell behind 21-0 at halftime, before staging another furious comeback late in the game. With no timeouts, Stafford led the offense nearly 70 yards on a final drive from their own seven yard line, resulting in a 43-yard Prater attempt on the final play of the game for the win.

At that point of the season, the Lions had missed every field goal attempted between 40 and 49 yards, so tensions were even higher than normal for this kick. After a low snap from Don Muhlbach, the nightmare continued, Prater pushed it wide right–but the referee’s whistle started blowing right as he sent the ball just off target. An extremely ticky-tack delay of game flag on the Lion’s shockingly gave Prater another go at it, this time from five yards further back.

The snap was low again, and as it left his foot, this one looked like it was headed left. Instead, the ball straightened out about halfway to the posts and split through, setting off the wild celebration of one of the more improbable Lions wins of my lifetime.

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Fox play-by-play announcer summed it up best in the final seconds: “Football and life can be funny games.” Prater got a second lease on both for the 2014 Lions. That unforgettable day in London was just the beginning, kickstarting a decade of so many classic clutch moments for the Detroit Lions.