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Matt Prater, Cardinals Execute NFL's Lone Successful Onside Kick

Recovering such a play has minute chance to work; 1-for-19 this season

Matt Prater's onside kick -- the one Owen Pappoe recovered at the end of last week's Ravens game -- was a thing of beauty. It was mostly beautiful because it worked, becoming the first successful onside kick in the NFL this season.

There have been 18 other failed attempts, including another one by Prater a few minutes later against Baltimore.

"Even before the rule change, with onside kicks, it's such a low percentage, because no matter what kick you do, you basically have to hope the other team screws up one way or another," Prater said. "That's usually the only way you get the ball back."

Onside kicks have changed over the years. Rules dictating engagement and how many players can be on either side of the ball were put in place for safety purposes.

"It's taken a couple years to get a feel for how different teams play," special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. "There are really two basic alignments that teams can use. Using that information you can get a feel going into a game how most people will deploy. It's certainly made it more challenging to recover but not impossible."

Rodgers, not surprisingly, doesn't want to lose the onside kick, because it is part of the kicking game that he believes is important to keep in the sport. He doesn't like the idea of a team being allowed to try and convert a "fourth-and-15" or a "fourth-and-20" in lieu of an onside kick, believing that it would make it too easy to have more success.

"There are 60 minutes of ball," Rodgers said, noting that teams have the entire game to try and win.

Prater, a 17-year veteran, doesn't know if it's really that much harder to recover an onside kick these days. It's a roulette wheel anyway, and even harder on natural grass where the ball doesn't get an even surface on which to bounce. It's not like kickers practice such kicks pregame.

Long snapper Aaron Brewer, listening to the conversation, noted he once too got a chance to try his own onside kick. Against the Rams in a 2020 home game, he lined up next to kicker Zane Gonzalez and, in an attempt to surprise the Rams, was the one to take the boot. It got a bounce but went right to a Rams player.

"You just hope you give your team a chance," Prater said. "The only thing I ever worry about is it not going 10 yards."

Owen Pappoe grabs the onside kick against the Ravens.
Owen Pappoe grabs the onside kick against the Ravens.