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From 50 Is A Charm: Matt Prater Still Has The Leg For Cardinals

Kicker returns to face the Lions showing he can still hit from deep

Kicker Matt Prater boots one of his 53-yard field goals against the Rams Monday night.
Kicker Matt Prater boots one of his 53-yard field goals against the Rams Monday night.

Matt Prater has kicked in the NFL since 2007, a lifetime ago when it comes to his profession.

That year, when Prater played for both the Falcons and Broncos, NFL kickers made only 47 percent of their attempts from at least 50 yards.

It's a distance Prater knows well, having made 65 field goals of 50 yards or more in his career, most in NFL history. The 15-year veteran knows all too well that percentage has jumped to 66 percent this season. In Monday's loss to the Rams, Prater converted two from 53 yards, and Rams kicker Matt Gay had his own of 50-plus yards.

"Guys are getting better and better," said Prater, who returns to Detroit Sunday to kick in the building he called home from 2014-20. "Fifty-yard field goals are viewed almost as guaranteed makes. That wasn't the case before. The goal was to be 50 percent on 50-yard field goals. Now they expect you to make everything.

"Any time I'm sent out there for a field goal, I expect to make it."

It's why the Cardinals have shown faith in Prater's ability to make a deep field goal this season. Prater has made six field goals from at least 50 yards, trailing only Cincinnati's Evan McPherson and Pittsburgh's Chris Boswell, who each have seven.

Prater is tied for second, behind only New York's Graham Gano, for the most 50-yard field goal attempts made in 2021.

In the home opener, coach Kliff Kingsbury sent Prater out for a 62-yard field goal against Minnesota in Week 2 instead of opting for a Hail Mary attempt with quarterback Kyler Murray. The try was good, surpassing Jay Feely's 61-yarder in 2012 for the longest in franchise history.

It's was also the second-longest field goal of Prater's career, behind the one-time NFL record 64-yarder he made in 2013 with the Broncos.

Much of Prater's success is due to chemistry with long snapper Aaron Brewer, who were teammates in Denver for two seasons.

"There's a comfort level," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Those guys have spent a ton of time on tasks together – whether it was here or in Denver – and they feel comfortable with each other. I think you've seen that this season."

It's why losing Brewer for several weeks with a broken arm was tough for Prater. One of the games without Brewer – Week 11 in Seattle – Prater missed two field goals from 36 and 39 yards along with missing a 33-yard extra point.

"We're expected to get the snap to the kick in 1.3 seconds or less," Prater said. "So, when there's a change – whether a snapper, holder, or kicker – it changes the timing. You get used to working with someone, with their rhythm and consistency, and it's tough when you change it up.

"With Brewer, I don't have to look or think; I know exactly when it's coming – just from playing with him in Denver all those years. When you change that, the timing of it changes. Especially with the way I kick the ball. I swing hard basically on every kick, so I'm not as comfortable with it when the timing is different. I would say to the point I have some hesitation."

While Prater admitted not having Brewer changed some things about his approach, he refused to make excuses for missing the kicks in Seattle and praised fill-in long snapper Beau Brinkley.

Over his career, misses have always lingered with Prater. He's obsessed with figuring out what happened so it doesn't happen again.

"The Seattle game was tough," Prater said. "I was disappointed with the way I played. I was happy and thankful for how the team played and how we still pulled off the victory. But I had to get back (to Arizona) and watch the tape. I think that was the worst game I ever had in my life, at any level.

"I could make a lot of excuses like just having a baby and not having enough sleep, among other things. But at the end of the day, I should've just kicked better and made those kicks."