58-yard boot no problem for Lions’ Matt Prater
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For most kickers, a game-tying, 58-yard field goal as time expires would qualify as the highlight of their careers.
For Matt Prater, it just barely made the top five on his list.
Prater’s big leg got the Detroit Lions to overtime against the Minnesota Vikings and Matthew Stafford’s big arm took over from there in a 22-16 victory on Sunday.
Prater has the NFL record of 64 yards and three kicks of 59 yards on his resume, so when he trotted on to the field at indoor U.S. Bank Stadium with the game on the line, it was nothing new for him.
"I’m confident," Prater said. "More than likely I’m not worried about missing it short. … I expect to make every kick. I don’t overanalyze it or think too much. I just kick it and hope it goes straight."
It usually does. Prater is 23 for 23 on game-tying or go-ahead field goal tries in the fourth quarter or overtime, according to ESPN. So when Stafford took the ball down 16-13 with 23 seconds left on the clock, he knew all Prater needed was a chance.
"Matt Prater will say get to midfield and he will have a chance," Stafford said. "He has got a big leg."
Once it got to overtime, Stafford hit Golden Tate for a 28-yard touchdown to give the Lions (5-4) their fourth win in five games. Stafford completed 23 of 36 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and Tate had 11 catches for 79 yards.
Sam Bradford completed 31 of 40 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings, who have lost three in a row coming out of the bye after a 5-0 start.
But the vaunted Vikings defense couldn’t come up with one more stop.
"It’s hard to feel good after a loss, but today we looked like we have in the past," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
"Obviously we didn’t get it done and there’s no guarantees, but I’d rather go into a fight with these guys the way they were today than the last couple of weeks."
Here are the top takeaways from the game:
WALSH’S BREAKING POINT
Juxtaposed against Prater’s dependability in big moments is Vikings kicker Blair Walsh’s erratic play. He missed his third extra point try of the season, more than any other kicker in the league. He also had a kick that was blocked. Throughout his career, Walsh has impressed with his graciousness in fielding questions after missing big kicks. But on Sunday, he snapped.
"It didn’t go in, right?" he said. "You guys are going to ask me this question a million times: `Did it feel good?’ Did I make it? No. Do I have to? Yes. Do I want to? Yes. So, just, if you’ve got something else, please. Seriously."
The comeback was Stafford’s fifth this season when trailing in the fourth quarter, the most in the NFL. The Lions’ five victories have been by a total of 17 points. Their four losses have come by a combined 18 points.
"You do not always want to be in those situations, but we have been the majority of the time this year and these guys just believe in each other," Stafford said. "I believe in those guys."
Zimmer deployed a prevent defense in hopes of avoiding getting beaten deep by Stafford. When the QB was able to complete two passes to get them into Prater’s range, Zimmer said he should have tried to apply more pressure.
"If I had to do it all over again, I would probably rush four and try and get it that way," Zimmer said. "He scrambled around and made a play. That’s how it goes."
Unlike the past two games, the blame for losing didn’t fall squarely on Minnesota’s offense.
Actually, the Vikings posted their third-highest yardage total of the season during an efficient, rhythmic performance behind sharp play calling by offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur in his first game in the role. He replaced Norv Turner, who abruptly resigned on Wednesday.
They used a faster pace between snaps and favored quicker, high-percentage throws, effectively minimizing the pressure on Bradford, who was sacked only twice after taking a total of 11 sacks the previous two weeks.
Still, the Vikings weren’t perfect. They had to punt after starting a drive at the 18-yard line following an interception in the second quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, Matt Asiata was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the 5.