Even during shaky season, Prater has been big for Lions
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions have won four games this season, and three of those victories came via the foot of Matt Prater.
The veteran kicker has been shaky at times this year, but he has already made a trio of game-ending kicks. The latest was the most spectacular of the bunch, a 59-yard field goal on the final play that gave Detroit a 30-27 victory over Washington on Sunday.
Prater has missed six field goals in 2020, one more than he did last season. But in addition to Sunday’s winner, he also beat Arizona with a 39-yard field goal on the final play in September. Last month, Prater made an extra point with no time remaining for a 23-22 win at Atlanta — and that kick had been pushed back 15 yards because of a penalty.
“Hopefully, I haven’t changed too much,” Prater said after Sunday’s game. “It’s just after missing a few and kind of getting back to the basics, and figuring out what was going on, and I kind of addressed that, and I had a better week of practice.”
Prater’s kick came after Detroit blew a 21-point third-quarter lead against Washington. It was an exciting finish between two struggling teams, but a game that ended up being closer than the Lions probably wanted after they appeared to be in control.
The victory gave Detroit its first home win in over a year, but did little to dispel some of the criticism that’s been aimed at the team lately.
“We’re always trying to teach — no matter we win, we have a good game or a poor game,” coach Matt Patricia said. “I think there’s always opportunity for us to teach and coach and try to improve, and the players do a great job of that. … I think everyone expects to learn things when you don’t play well, but I think there’s a lot that you can learn from when you do play well.”
Detroit’s offensive line held up well against Washington’s tough defensive front. Matthew Stafford was sacked only once, and the Lions averaged 5.0 yards per carry on the ground.
“They did an outstanding job,” Stafford said. “That’s as good of a front talent-wise as we’re going to play in the NFL. They’ve got five dudes that were drafted in the first round and all get after the quarterback. I thought our guys started the game great.”
What needs help
This was not a good performance by the Detroit defense. Washington finished with 34 first downs and 464 yards of offense. The Lions stiffened in their own territory in the first half, allowing only three points, but in the final two quarters, Washington went on drives of 82, 84, 66 and 66 yards, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal on its last four possessions.
Rookie D’Andre Swift has shown promise at times this season, and the Lions did a good job keeping him involved Sunday. He had 81 yards on 16 carries and also contributed five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.
“I think one of the things I just thought was great was his overall toughness that you could see,” Patricia said. “We know he’s a tough guy. He plays extremely hard, and he plays with a lot of energy. Some of the plays he made I thought were really smart, too.”
It was a quiet game for tight end T.J. Hockenson, Detroit’s leading receiver. He had two catches for 13 yards.
Patricia did not give an update on Stafford’s throwing hand, which bothered the quarterback but did not prevent him from finishing the game. Receiver Danny Amendola (hip) left the game and there was no update on his status either Monday.
78 — Career sacks for defensive end Everson Griffen, who had his first since being acquired by Detroit in a trade with Dallas last month.
Detroit plays at Carolina next Sunday. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said quarterback Teddy Bridgewater does not have a serious knee injury. Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey is recovering from a shoulder injury.
“We’ll prepare like everybody’s playing, and then we’ll adjust and go from there,” Patricia said. “When you have certainly two dynamic players like those guys are, you better be ready to go.”