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Notebook: Broncos at Chargers

Posted Nov 27, 2011

Prater delivers game-winning field goal; The run game set up the victory; Clutch catches kept drives alive.


PRATER DELIVERS

For the second time this season, Matt Prater took the field in overtime to line up a potential game-winning kick. Just like he did against the Miami Dolphins, Prater converted the 37-yard kick, giving the Broncos a walk-off win on the road.

Before he had a chance to kick the winner, Prater first had to send the game into overtime with a 24-yard field goal in the final minutes of regulation.  

“I didn’t really feel pressure on any of them,” Prater said after the game. “I treat them all the same, whether it’s an extra-point or 40-yarders. I don’t think anything about it, I just hit it.”

In Denver’s 18-15 win over the Dolphins in Week 7, Prater drilled a 56-yarder to win the game. He joked after today’s game-winner that he was hoping to get another 50-yarder for the style points.

“That looks a lot better,” Prater said. “A 30-something yarder, you should make it every time.”

His teammates were just as confident that the game was as good as won when Prater stepped onto the field in overtime.

“We know Matt is clutch,” defensive lineman Elvis Dumervil said. “He’s one of the clutch kickers in the league, so if I was a betting man, I’d feel comfortable putting my bet on Matt.”

Prater has made 24-of-25 field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career, which now includes three overtime game winners. He joins Rich Karlis (1985) and Jason Elam (2007) as the only Broncos to kick two overtime game-winning field goals in the same season.

RUN GAME SETS UP VICTORY

The Broncos finished the game with 208 rushing yards, 130 of which came in the second half and overtime.  Running back Willis McGahee led the way with 117 yards on 23 carries, for an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. He topped the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season.

McGahee finished the game strong, rushing for 73 yards in the second half and overtime.

The legs of McGahee and quarterback Tim Tebow combined to lead Denver down the field on its final overtime possession. Tebow carried twice for 16 yards, then McGahee broke off a 24-yard gain that took Denver to the San Diego 17 and set up Prater’s game-winning kick.
 
“At the end of the game, I know when those guys get tired of hitting me, that’s when I step my game up,” McGahee said. “I kept telling my coach, give me the ball. I’m ready.”


After the game, Head Coach John Fox praised the veteran running back, who was recently added as a team captain.

“He's a real pro,” Fox said. “He made a fast impact in that locker room and you can see statistically what he's impacted on the football field. I think (running backs coach) Eric Studesville knew a lot about him. They had a past together in Buffalo. He came strongly recommended and he's come as advertised.”

Tebow ran for 67 yards on 22 attempts, which represented the most carries in a game by a quarterback in NFL history.

“To be honest, my body feels great,” he said when asked about carrying the ball 22 times. “And I thank the Lord because I came out injury free and honestly feel great after playing five quarters.”

CLUTCH CATCHES

Denver found itself in a familiar situation late in the fourth quarter against the Chargers. Trailing by three, the Broncos had the ball at their own 26 with 5:27 to play in the game. As he has before, Tebow led the team down the field to set up a 24-yard game-tying field goal by Prater.

A pair of acrobatic catches by wide receiver Eric Decker and tight end Dante Rosario highlighted the 74-yard drive.

Decker’s fully-extended grab came with the Broncos facing a third-and-11 from their own 25. Tebow took advantage of great protection from the offensive line to wait for Decker to get a step on his defender and then delivered the ball to a spot where only his receiver could make the 39-yard catch.

“The offensive line just did a great job on that play,” Tebow said. “We had Decker going on a seam comeback all the way to the left, and as I just kind of turned in to pump fake it to the left, Decker started crossing. I could see the safety had his back to me. I tried to put it wide for him and he made a great play just like he does every game.”

The Chargers challenged the on-field ruling of a completion, but Decker knew the call would stand.

“When I came down I had it trapped in my chest,” Decker said. “I made sure that thing wasn’t coming out of my grasp.”

Two plays later, Tebow dropped back to pass and saw Rosario open along the right sideline. Rosario leapt in the air and came down with both feet inbounds for a 23-yard gain down to the Chargers 12-yard line.

“It was a great call by Coach (Offensive Coordinator Mike) McCoy,” Tebow said. “And that was a huge catch by Dante.”

Rosario also came up with a big special-teams tackle in overtime, bringing down San Diego receiver Patrick Crayton at the Chargers 8-yard line for no gain on the return.

“Whenever a player gets their opportunity, it’s just being in the right place and making sure that you make the play,” Rosario said. “I don’t know what it is, but my number was called and we needed a big play.”