theoaklandpress -Paula Pasche
It seems fitting that kicker Matt Prater will be the Detroit Lions’ only representative at Sunday’s Pro Bowl.
His incredible season was one reason the Lions finished 9-7 and earned a playoff berth.
Prater was invited to Sunday’s Pro Bowl since Atlanta Falcons’ kicker Matt Bryant will be preparing to play in Super Bowl LI.
Here are five things to know about Prater:
1. He is Mr. Clutch and had ample opportunity to prove it. While the Lions had an NFL record eight fourth-quarter comeback wins, Prater played a huge role. He converted on six game-winning or game-tying field goals with under four minutes to play in the fourth quarter or overtime this season. Overall for his career, he has totaled 18 such field goals, including 12 field goals with less than two minutes to play. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter joked in December that they’d like to score more touchdowns and keep Prater from collecting the NFC special teams player of the week awards. He won the weekly award three times in 2016 and was the NFC special teams player of the month in November.
2. In 2016, Prater connected on a career-high 31 field goals, the third-highest single-season total in team history behind Hanson (34 in 1993 and 32 in 2012). His 124 points scored in 2016 rank sixth in franchise history, marking the eighth time a Lions player has reached 120+ points in a single season.
3. At age 32, he still has plenty of leg power. His 54-yard field goal against the Packers in Week 17 was Prater’s seventh 50-yard field goal of the season, the second-most 50-yard field goals ever in a season by a Lions kicker. Hanson had eight in 2008. Prater’s seven 50-yard field goals in 2016 were tied for second-most in the NFL and also marked a career single-season high, surpassing the six he made while with Denver in 2013. Prater’s 17 field goals of 40 or more yard this season also tied for the second-most in the NFL. Prater, who already owned the longest field goal in Lions history (59 yards in the 2015 regular season finale at Chicago), kicked the second longest in team history at Minnesota this season, a 58-yarder as regulation time expired to force overtime in a game Detroit would eventually win, 22-16.
4. Prater was one of the top free agent signings in recent years for the Lions. He’s living proof that coach Jim Caldwell believes in second chances. Prater was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. When he was reinstated the Denver Broncos cut him. The Lions brought him in for a tryout, but first Caldwell and Prater had a 90-minute talk. Credit Caldwell and former GM Martin Mayhew for nabbing Prater. If you remember the Lions had started the 2014 season with kickers Nate Freese and Alex Henery who weren’t equipped to handle the job.
5. Playing in the Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando will be like going home for Prater. He played four seasons at the University of Central Florida (2002-05) which played its games at the stadium, formerly known as the Citrus Bowl. He also went to the Pro Bowl in 2013 while with the Broncos. That was the year he set the NFL record for the longest field goal at 64 yards, a record that still stands.