LONDON (AP) Matt Prater took advantage of another second chance.
Prater missed a 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds to go, then got another try because of a delay-of-game penalty. He nailed that one from 48 yards, giving the Detroit Lions a second straight comeback victory, 22-21 over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
”As soon as I hit it, I knew it was good,” Prater said.
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Detroit gave Prater a second chance this month after Denver cut ties with the star kicker just as he was about to be eligible to return from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Prater has been in the NFL’s substance-abuse program, which includes alcohol, since a DUI arrest in 2011.
After struggling through the first half, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford stepped up in the second and finished with 325 passing yards and two touchdowns. Those two scores gave Stafford a team-record 120 touchdown passes – two more than Hall of Famer Bobby Layne.
Detroit (6-2) trailed 21-0 at halftime in the earliest start in NFL history.
”We don’t give up. We keep fighting,” Lions receiver Jeremy Ross said. ”We believe in what we can do. We keep pushing,” Ross said. ”We keep driving, keep fighting, we don’t stop.”
Matt Ryan, showed his best in the first half for Atlanta (2-6), completing 14 of 17 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. But the Falcons couldn’t run out the clock at the end, giving Stafford and the Lions a shot at the winning drive and kick.
”You go from where you think you have won the game to where they have another opportunity,” Ryan said. ”It probably makes it tougher that it wasn’t a penalty on us, it was a penalty on them. From a frustration standpoint, that hurts.”
Here are some things we learned Sunday:
NEVER COUNT OUT STAFFORD: Stafford led the Lions to a comeback win over the New Orleans Saints last week, and then he did it again against the Falcons.
Stafford drove his team down field as time was running short, completing a 32-yard pass to Golden Tate, a 20-yarder to Theo Riddick and a 10-yarder to Ross.
”That’s about as high, and as low, and as high again as I’ve been on a football field,” Stafford said.
THE FALCONS COULD BE GOOD: With Ryan leading the way, the Falcons looked like a team on the rise. While the defense shut out the Lions in the first half, Ryan and the offense were putting up big numbers, including a pair of touchdown passes.
The second half just wasn’t the same.
”Things went so easy in the first half,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. ”And we did not play nearly the type of football in the second half as we did in the first half, and in turn we did not get the win.”
LIONS CAN WIN WITHOUT CALVIN JOHNSON: Since Calvin Johnson aggravated his right ankle injury against Buffalo on Oct. 5 against New Orleans, the Lions are 3-0.
”It’s a great time for bye week. We got a chance to get healthy,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. ”We got guys nicked up a bit, and hopefully get some guys back for the second half of the season.”
Besides Johnson, the Lions also played without running back Reggie Bush, tackle LaAdrian Waddle and a trio of tight ends. But they still keep winning.
”We went into this game without our starting right tackle, without Calvin, without Reggie, without all three of our tight ends,” Stafford said. ”And we have been relying on guys that have made plays. And really, all of them have.”
PENALTIES HURT, USUALLY: Both teams were hurt by penalties, but the Lions were ultimately helped by their final infraction, allowing them to get a second chance at the field goal.
”The first kick, I saw the flag go up and it was to the right there and I’m thinking, `Well, you know, immediately something was called on us,”’ Caldwell said. ”Until I saw them back there signaling it was delay of game, so I knew we would get another shot at it.”
The Falcons, however, didn’t get much help on their end.
”We had some very untimely penalties. We did some very uncharacteristic things on both sides of the ball,” Smith said. ”You can’t give up the big play like we gave up, and you’ve got to keep the ball in your possession. We can’t turn the ball over.”
EARLY BIRDS: The game started at 1:30 p.m. – 9:30 a.m. on the East Coast in the United States and 6:30 a.m. on the West Coast.
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