With the final seconds ticking off the clock in Wednesday’s practice, the team turned to kicker Matt Prater to do what he did four separate times last season – convert a game-winning field goal.
Trailing by two points with :23 left on the clock and the ball spotted on the opponent 40-yard line, Peyton Manning completed a 7-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas that moved the ball to the 33-yard line. With time winding down, Prater ran onto the field and drilled a 50-yard field goal to win the game.
“It’s as close to realistic as you can get, especially with the crowd out here and everything,” Prater said about the situational drills. “It’s good, I like the practice and as long as I’m making them it’s always good.”
Prater converted three other clutch kicks during the situational sessions at the end of practice.
First, it was a 48-yarder that tied the game for the first-team offense with just seven seconds remaining in the game.
Then after Adam Weber led the second-team offense down the field, Prater converted from 34 yards out for the game-tying points.
Lastly, Prater ran out to cap a Caleb Hanie-led drill with a 48-yard game winner.
While the players that set up each kick changed throughout drills to rotate the reps, Prater is the only kicker on the roster, so all the training camp reps are his.
Along with punter Britton Colquitt, Prater is one of only two Broncos not competing with any other players in camp for a roster spot, but that doesn’t mean he’s gotten complacent with his status on the squad.
“With the NFL, you’re always competing, whether it’s with somebody in the building or on the other 31 teams with other guys in camp,” Prater said. “You have to do your best or they’ll always be looking for someone better.”
Unbeknownst to Prater, his accuracy went beyond the field goal posts on Wednesday. One of his kicks split the uprights and crashed squarely into the windshield of a parked car in the employee lot at the team’s training facility.
When Prater found out about it after practice, he laughed and said it’s the fifth time that’s happened since he joined the team.
“It’s insurance, it’s not my fault,” he said, laughing when asked if he’d be responsible for the repairs. “I guess don’t park anywhere near the uprights.”
The team usually kicks toward its turf field, but to change things up today, Prater’s kicks all pointed the other direction.
“Today they wanted to switch it – maybe so I didn’t get too comfortable kicking it at one set of uprights,” Prater said. “The wind is always different, too, so depending on the wind, that kind of decides where we’re kicking.”
While he’s willing to kick at the employee lot from time to time, Prater joked that he’d be afraid of kicking towards his teammates’ cars.
“I never kick toward (the players’ lot) just because everyone in this building is a lot bigger than me,” Prater joked. “So I don’t want to hit their cars.”