They are often the forgotten men, taken for granted and the butt of jokes.
But when they’re needed, it’s often in a game-on-the-line situation.
Such is the life of NFL placekickers.
The Broncos can be thankful that they have Matt Prater, one of the best clutch kickers in the business. A lot of different people are sharing in the credit for the Broncos’ midseason resurgence, but Prater often gets overlooked.
It’s a shame, too. Consider some of his contributions during the Broncos’ last eight games:
–Game-winning 52-yard field goal in overtime in an 18-15 win over Miami
–3-for-3 in field goal tries, including a 37-yarder in overtime, in a 16-13 win at San Diego.
–Two critical field goals in the 35-32 win over the Vikings…one from 46 yards to tie the game at 32 with 1:33 remaining and the other a 23-yarder with no time left to win the game.
–Two huge kicks against the Bears last Sunday, a 59-yard boot with three seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 10, then a game-winning 51-yard field goal to win the game in overtime.
His efforts against the Bears earned him the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award. Despite a bit of a midseason slump, Prater still has a knack for coming up big when the moment demands it.
“I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to jinx myself,” Prater told 850KOA after the win over the Bears. “But I’m confident I should be making them all throughout the game. Hopefully I’ll get the numbers up in the other three quarters.”
Great players cause people to take their performances for granted. Prater has a way of doing that for Broncos players and fans alike.
“Obviously that was a great clutch kick, both of them,” Head Coach John Fox said on the 850KOA post-game show. “We have great confidence in him from any range.”
And well they should.
Prater authored his latest round of heroics after the Bears tried to ice him with a timeout.
Not a problem whatsoever.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Prater said. “I was ready to kick it either way. If they ice me or not, it doesn’t matter.”
So feel free to offer the Mile High Salute to Tim Tebow, the defense and the Broncos’ hero of the week. They all deserve it.
But so does the kicker who quietly goes about his business. More often than not, he has made the improbable merely routine.
The Patriots are up next. Can the Broncos extend their winning streak to seven games?
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