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FOUR DOWNS: Praise for Prater

The last kick Matt Prater attempts every pregame is a 60-yarder from the left hash.

It was the same routine Sunday in Minnesota, and Prater booted it right through with room to spare.

So, when his number was called with two seconds left, and he was asked to tie the game from that same left hash and two yards closer (58 yards), Prater had no doubt the game was going to overtime.

"I'm confident," Prater said afterward. "More than likely I'm not worried about missing it short. I just expect to make the kick, so I try not to overthink it.

"Like I said, I'm confident in the guys up front snapping and holding and I expect to make every kick. So I don't over-analyze it or think too much. I just kick it and hope it goes straight."

Prater made the kick to force overtime. The Lions won it in the extra session, 22-16, when Matthew Stafford hit Golden Tate for a 28-yard touchdown on the first possession.

Prater made all three of his field goal attempts in the game, including kicks from 47 and 52 yards earlier in the game.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell made the comment earlier this week when asked about Prater that his veteran kicker has been "worth his weight in gold" for the Lions since arriving in Detroit.

He certainly was Sunday.

Prater now has 16 game-winning or game-tying field goals with fewer than four minutes to play in the fourth quarter or overtime. He notched the 32nd and 33rd 50-plus-yard field goals of his career.

"Yeah, Prater says get to midfield and he's going to have a chance," Stafford joked after the game. "He's got a big leg."


Special teams were exactly that, special, for the Lions in Minnesota Sunday, and we're not just talking about Prater.

Yes, Prater was 3-for-3 kicking field goals, including that 58-yarder to tie the game at the end of regulation to force overtime.

But punter Sam Martin was also fantastic, finishing with a gross punting average of 52.4 yards and a net of 46.2. For comparisons sake, Vikings punter Jeff Locke had an average and net of 36.5 yards.

One of the biggest plays of the game was a blocked field goal early in the fourth quarter by Tyrunn Walker on a 46-yard Blair Walsh attempt. The block led to a Prater field goal.

Walsh also missed an extra point.

Special teams were a big factor in Detroit's win.

"I can't say enough about this special teams unit," Stafford said after the game.


This win improves the Lions to 5-4 on the season as they head to the bye week with an opportunity to get healthy and get some players back before their next game Week 11 at home against Jacksonville.

The Lions are in a pretty good spot with all three of their division road games in the books. They'll host Minnesota, Chicago and Green Bay the second half of the season.

"It's a huge win," Stafford said after the game. "That's a really good football team we just played, a really, really good one and their defense is fantastic. I think to come into their place and get a win, the first one in the division this year is a good one."

The Lions have seven games remaining, three against their division and three more against NFC teams in the playoff hunt – Dallas, New Orleans and the New York Giants.

"It's a good feeling being 5-4 after a rough start (1-3)," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. "But we're just going to keep the truck going into this bye week. Just keep taking it one game at a time. We're in control of our own destiny, so when it all boils down, we're not looking around needing help from anyone."


Caldwell got up in front of the team Saturday and gave a speech that resonated with a lot of players.

"Coach asked a question yesterday," wide receiver Golden Tate said. "He asked, 'Who's going to be the guy that says, watch me? When you want something to get done, watch me?'

"And that kind of resonated on me since yesterday and I just thought in my head, 'I want to be that guy that everybody's watching.' I want to be that leader that makes a play and I just prayed for an opportunity."

That opportunity came for Tate, who sealed the game with a toe-tapping touchdown and leap into the end zone. Tate finished with 11 catches for 79 yards.

Tight end Eric Ebron stepped up to the tune of seven catches for 92 yards.

"Jim challenged us basically as players. Who's going to be the focus of this game? Who is going to make that play that changes this game? Who's going to make that play to win this game?" Ebron said. 

"All of us made plays, the special teams, offense and defense to change the game. The speech he gave us touched not only Prater, but man, all 62, 63 people on this roster that travel. That's the way Jim Caldwell is and we know when he says something he means it and he challenged us and we all wanted to step up to it." 

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