The Detroit Lions were losing, but not by that much, when kicker Matt Prater stepped onto the field to attempt a 46-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-22 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
He had been inconsistent on his attempts from at least 50 yards this season. But he had already nailed a 50- and 51-yarder. And, up to that point, he hadn’t missed from 49 yards or fewer.
Then something went wrong.
“I had a great pregame (warmup), a good game up to that point and I just hit it a little fat,” Prater said Monday during a conference call. “So it had like an inside-out, which shouldn’t happen but it did on that one.”
Wide right. Falcons' ball at their 36-yard line and leading, 14-13, with 7:32 left.
“So I went to sideline,” Prater said. “Obviously I’m upset, but just kind of want to stick with what I’d been doing all day because it had been working and not make any adjustments too crazy.
“Then our defense forced a turnover. Romeo (Okwara) had the strip sack and set up a 49-yarder, same hash. And I just came through on that one.”
That gave the Lions a 16-14 lead with 3:16 left but Prater had no idea what was in store for him. He did, however, have a good feeling he would be called upon again.
Once Todd Gurley accidentally scored to give the Falcons a 22-16 lead with 1:04 left, Prater got excited. He had seen quarterback Matthew Stafford engineer numerous comeback drives.
“Any time we get the ball with Stafford and a minute or less, I’m always confident we’re going to score,” Prater said. “So I started kicking into the net.”
Stafford’s 11-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson tied the game as time expired. All that was left was Prater’s extra-point kick, which was moved back 15 yards and made a 48-yard attempt after of an unsportsmanlike penalty called on Danny Amendola because he removed his helmet on the field while celebrating the TD.
“Some guys let the emotions get the best of them and started celebrating, so it backed it up,” Prater said. “And I basically treat it like a long field and swing hard and it went straight. So it worked out.”
But it wasn’t quite that simple. Prater didn’t know that the distance assessed for an unsportsmanlike penalty.
“I guess I should know the rules better but I thought they backed it up 5 yards at first,” he said. “And when they kept going I realized, ‘Oh, man. This is a pretty far kick.’
“But you treat it the same as far as you expect to make every kick. A little further, you should still be swinging about the same and hopefully it stays straight. Obviously the further back, the harder it gets.”
It was a wild final 7 ½ minutes for Prater, who went from disappointment to savior. That’s why it was easy for him to sum up what the kick meant for him in his career.
“For me, personally, that’s up there at the top because especially since it’s an extra point the distance doesn’t matter,” he said. “You’re expected to make that every time. It just happened to be a really far extra point.
“That’s definitely furthest extra point I’ve ever attempted in my life. It’s crazy, and I’m happy we came through and we could get the win.”
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions Matt Prater explains his mindset before game-winning long PAT