While many in America were still sound asleep in their beds, the Sunday NFL slate got started across the pond; as the Atlanta Falcons took on the Detroit Lions in London, England. Apparently, the Lions took awhile to get up as well.
It was a tale of two halves Sunday morning. The first saw the Falcons soaring to a 21-0 lead in the game. It saw Detroit’s offense looking tentative and making mistakes. In the second half however, the Lions woke up.
Befittingly for a football game played in Wembley Stadium, the second half would begin with a kicker; and it would end with a kicker. Like all of the ones that had preceded it, the Lions’ first drive of the third quarter would see them fail to get into the end zone. They did finally get onto the board however, as kicker Matt Prater would hit a 22-yard chip shot.
From there, the Lions defense would pitch a shutout; and Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford would get into a rhythm. In the absence of All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Stafford would often look to Golden Tate. The former Seattle Seahawk would finish the contest with seven receptions for 151 yards, including a 59-yard strike late in the third for the Lions’ first touchdown.
The scoring would open in the final frame with Prater hitting another short field goal (this time from 20 yards). Notre Dame Alumnus Theo Riddick would then catch a five-yard touchdown from Stafford to pull within two points. The two point conversion attempt would go to another former Golden-domer in Tate, but would fall incomplete. There appeared to be some holding on the play, but the Lions pleas to the officials would be to no avail.
In the first play following the two minute warning, the Lions would hold the Falcons to a 1-yard gain before using their final timeout. On the next play, Atlanta would be called for holding; which, with the clock stopped, would be declined. On third down, Matt Ryan would fail to connect with Julio Jones and the clock would again stop. With 1:55 remaining, the Lions would be getting the ball back.
Starting from their own 7-yard line, Stafford and the Lions offense would march down the field. Moving well, it would sputter at the Atlanta 31-yard line; where, after a Stafford spike, Joique Bell would only gain one yard on second, and third down combined. But hope was not lost, as there was a flag on the play: defensive holding. The clock would stop; and Detroit would get a new set of downs.
On first down, Stafford would take a knee to center the ball. On second, he would spike the ball to stop the clock. With four seconds left, Prater would line up for a 43-yard field goal; and, like in every other Lions attempt from 40-49 yards thus far this season, he would miss.
There were no smiles on the field after the miss, but there was a flag…on the offense: delay of game. The kick didn’t count, and because the clock was stopped, there would be no ten second runoff. Prater would get a second chance. This time however, it would be from an even more formidable 48 yards.
This time around, Prater’s kick would sail right through the uprights. For the first time in the game, the scoreboard would show a Detroit lead. The clock would show no time remaining. After the dust had settled, the Lions would be leaving London with an unlikely 22-21 win; one that marked the biggest blown lead in Falcons history.
Released by the Denver Broncos, the 30-year-old Prater signed with the Lions on Oct. 7. On this day (Oct. 26), in both the game and career, Prater would make the most of his second chance.