Matt Prater has been an integral piece behind the Broncos’ 3-0 start, and the rest of the league has taken notice.
Prater will be named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September, the Broncos were informed on Wednesday. It is the first such award of his NFL career, and marks the first time since October 2005 (punter Todd Sauerbrun) that a Bronco has won the award.
Prater’s recognition is also only the fourth time a Denver player has received the nomination since it was initiated by the NFL in 1993.
Prater was near perfect on his September field goals, making 7-of-9 attempts, including all three of kicks from 40 or more yards. Only three other AFC kickers made all their kicks from that distance, and Prater was also a perfect 5 of 5 on extra point attempts.
Beyond putting points on the board, Prater helped set the tone in the field position game for the Broncos No. 1 defense. He booted 13-of-15 September kickoffs into the end zone, with seven going for touchbacks. With those kicks, the Broncos lead the AFC in lowest average opponent starting position (20.6-yd. line) and total defense (214.7 yds. per game)
TAKING CHANCES AT THE RIGHT TIMES
In his 36 career NFL starts, Kyle Orton has accrued 24 wins.
That success comes from knowing when to make the right plays at the right time.
“It’s tough to win games if you beat yourself,” Orton said. “That’s really my approach going into every game.”
Orton has held up that approach on the field, going interception-free in his last 126 pass attempts. That streak is topped only by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been clean on his last 158 throws.
The commitment to mistake-free football has done little to inhibit Orton from making big plays when necessary. Of his 49 completions this season, seven have gone for 25 or more yards. Only Peyton Manning (9), Philip Rivers (9) and Eli Manning (8) have generated more long-range plays.
To Orton, smart football includes taking risks.
“It’s certainly not a style of play where you’re scared to take chances or scared to take shots,” Orton said. “It’s just knowing the right time to do them.
Finding that right time has been aided by two factors this season: an offensive line giving him time to throw and a slew of running backs setting up the pass.
With those in hand, the process of not beating himself has been close to seamless
“You certainly don’t have to get the ball out so quick and when the run game gets going, that’s a quarterback’s best friend,” Orton said. “It’s kind of twofold. When they can get the run game going and also protect so well, it makes it pretty easy on myself.”
Here are some more photos from the onset of Wednesday’s practice.
– Chris Gentilviso, DenverBroncos.com