Arizona Cardinals fans know all too well that kickers have come and gone in recent memory. The Cardinals haven’t had a kicker stay with the team for more than three seasons since Neil Rackers from 2003-2009.
Zane Gonzalez was supposed to be the answer after a good 2019 season but had a roller-coaster of a 2020 that forced 40-year-old veteran Mike Nugent to fill in. Gonzalez struggled in pressure-packed moments, missing big late-game field goals against the Dolphins, Patriots and Seahawks.
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After the 2020 season, the Cardinals released Gonzalez and wanted to make a significant change to the position. Finally, after years of going back and forth with kickers, general manager Steve Keim might have found Arizona’s true kicker in Matt Prater.
Prater is 37 years old who signed a two-year deal in the offseason after spending seven seasons with the Detroit Lions. It’s not like he’s someone Arizona could have for a decade. But recent kickers played for awhile such as Adam Vinateri, who played until he was 46, and Matt Bryant, who kicked until he was 44.
There are plenty of reasons to feel comfortable about the Cardinals’ offense. They’ve scored 30+ points in each of the first two games and Kyler Murray and company are a wrecking ball.
But if you ever need a reliable kicker down the stretch, Coach Kliff Kingsbury knows Prater is more than willing to get the job done.
Prater has the most 50-yard-plus field goals made and the longest in league history, a 64-yard kick for the Denver Broncos in 2013.
In Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings right before halftime, Prater kicked the longest field goal in Cardinals history at 62 yards.
Prater now owns the longest field goal record for three different franchises. The difference a kicker can make in a game was shown after winning by just one point against the Vikings. Longtime Arizona sports talk radio host John Gambadoro said it best on Prater.
Prater has a special technique after he kicks a field goal.
“Guys ask me why I keep my head down, so that I can feel it,” Prater told Bickley & Marotta. “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 Cardinals won’t care what Prater does as long as he kicks them straight through.
“The one yesterday felt pretty good. I don’t know if I could hit it much better than that. Luckily it went straight.”
Prater Feels For Joseph
Vikings kicker Greg Joseph kicked it wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt in the last seconds of a 34-33 loss to the Cardinals.
Joseph made two 50+yard field goals in this game already. Unfortunately for the Vikings, he already missed an extra point earlier in the game. Being an NFL kicker is like being in a fraternity and with Prater, he actually talked to Joseph after the game.
“You never hope anyone screws up,” Prater said of Joseph’s missed field goal at the end of the game. “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.”
While the Cardinals were up 38-13 against the Titans, Prater missed a 43-yard field goal. Even the sharp ones can miss on the “easier” kicks.
“Life of an NFL kicker,” Joseph said. “Making some of those longer kicks shows me I’m capable of making the shorter ones as well. I just have to do a better job executing next time.