Amid all the talk this week about quarterback Kyler Murray, Rondale Moore and issues with the defense, not enough attention has been paid to the 62-yard field goal made by Matt Prater to end the first half and provide the Cardinals with a 24-23 lead.
It was the longest field goal in club history, bettering Jay Feely’s 61-yarder against Buffalo on Oct. 14, 2012.
The kick resulted in the third lead change in the final 1:33 of the first half and the third of eight lead changes in the game.
It was two yards short of the NFL record held by Prater in a Dec. 8, 2013 game for the Denver Broncos against the Tennessee Titans. Cardinals special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers held the same job with the Broncos that year, and during training camp he talked about that Prater kick.
“I remember that like it was yesterday, and I could tell you every play going into the drive that we had,” he said. “(Wide receiver) Wes Welker had a concussion before he kicks the 64-yarder. Jacob Tamme, who was a backup tight end for us, runs the play that's designed for Wes to get us out of bounds. With Peyton (Manning) we had all kinds of end-of-game-type-stuff that went into those things and we actually got a bad spot on that play.
“So, Coach (John) Fox and I are talking, ‘Hey, if we get to the 45-yard line, he's good.’ We saw the play and that's where we thought the ball was spotted. And then we saw it was the 46 and it was, ‘OK, buckle up, here we go.’
"But that game was freezing. People say altitude and all that stuff. Go look at the temperature for that game against the Titans and we were actually trailing at that point, even after the field goal. But that certainly gave us a lot of momentum going into the half and it ended up being a win for the good guys by a couple of scores. Kind of gave us some momentum.”
A look at the Gamebook confirms Rodgers’ memory. The temperature was 18 with a wind chill of 11.
Welker was injured on a second-and-10 play from the Denver 29-yard line with 31 seconds remaining in the half. On third-and-10, Manning connected with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for 18 yards to the 47 and Manning spiked the ball with seven seconds remaining. The Broncos had no timeouts.
Tamme then gained seven yards and got out of bounds at the 46 to stop the clock with three seconds remaining. Prater’s kick got Denver to within 21-20, but the win was by more than “a couple of scores.”
The Broncos outscored the Titans 31-7 in the second half to win, 51-28.
As for Prater, Rodgers said, “You kind of learn the guy's distance. And the more you’re around Matt, you understand. He likes being in those situations, he kind of seeks those situations and he's not going to shy away from it. And I didn't feel like, ‘Oh, shoot, it's 46, we don't have a chance.’ It was just like, ‘OK, this is a yard further than what we thought.’ And you realize at that point, it was an NFL record and it was an impressive kick.”
Just like so many in his career. Consider:
*Prater holds franchise records for longest field goal with three teams: the Cardinals, Denver and Detroit, where he hit from 59 twice.
*There have been only 12 successful field goals of at least 62 yards in NFL history and Prater has two. He joins Brett Maher (3) as the only kickers in league history with multiple field goals of 62 yards or longer. Coincidentally, Maher was briefly on the Cardinals practice squad late last season and signed a futures contract on Jan.5. However, he was waived March 20 when the Cardinals signed Prater. Maher is one of six NFL players with a 63-yard field goal in their career.
*Prater now has 60 career field goals of at least 50 yards, extending his NFL record.
*Prater has made 60-of-80 attempts from 50 or more yards, a 75% success rate that is the highest in NFL history.
The day after the game, Prater was on the Bickley & Marotta show on Arizona Sports 98.7 and said, “Guys ask me why I keep my head down; (it’s) so that I can feel it. If I make good contact or like the way it felt on my foot, I keep my head down. If I ever look up quick that means I screwed up.
“The one yesterday felt pretty good. I don’t know if I could hit it much better than that. Luckily it went straight.”
Kickers are a unique fraternity, and Prater said of Vikings kicker Greg Joseph, who missed a game-winning 37-yard field goal, “You never hope anyone screws up. I felt bad for him. I talked to him for a minute after. I could tell he was pretty upset, obviously. It stinks when something like that happens. I’m happy we got the win but not like that.
“I just told him, I said, ‘You know how good you are. You just got to go out there and keep swinging, man. Hopefully it’ll straighten itself out.'”
Prater and the Cardinals would be happy if it does Sunday when Minnesota has its home opener against the Seattle Seahawks.