Once the ball finally landed and a thunderous roar rang out at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Prater stood alone in NFL annals as the man responsible for the longest made field goal in league history.
Prater’s 64-yard field goal on the final play of the first half of the Broncos’ 51-28 win over the Titans broke Tom Dempsey’s record of a 63-yard field goal that had stood for over 43 years – and had been equaled by Sebastian Janikowski, David Akers and former Broncos kicker Jason Elam.
But as the ball soared through the air, then began its rapid and wobbly descent towards the goalposts, Prater didn’t know whether the ball would clear the crossbar.
“You know, it was so cold – I knew I had hit it pretty good but I just wasn’t sure with the cold and everything if it was going to make it,” Prater said. “But then when I saw the ref’s hands go up, I can’t even explain how I felt after.”
His holder, punter
“I just told him to kick it as hard as he can, which is kind of what I always tell him, and follow through,” Colquitt said. “I felt like as long as he didn't do something crazy, he was going to make it. There was no question.”
The stage for Prater’s kick was set after quarterback
“Tamme claims that he ran out of bounds so Prater could get the record — at the right spot,” Colquitt smiled.
The situation progressed so rapidly, however, that Prater said he didn’t even have time to consider the record.
“It happened so quick, I didn’t really have a lot of time to think,” Prater said. “So I just went out, basically tried to kick it my hardest and hopefully it went straight.”
Getting enough power behind the kick in such bitter temperatures, however, made attempting a 64-yard kick an even steeper challenge.
“It’s a lot worse, especially the first couple kicks,” Prater said regarding kicking in the cold.
That frigidness did, however, offer one reprieve.
“By that time, my foot was numb, so I couldn’t really tell. You know?” Prater joked to a chorus of laughter from reporters.
Although Prater’s kick etched his place in history, it also incited a wave of emotion within his teammates that was immediately apparent as the Broncos swarmed the field to celebrate. And with Denver still trailing 21-20 even after the kick went through the uprights, that surge of momentum could not have come at a better time for the Broncos.
“Matt’s kick at the end of the half was awesome. I’m really happy for him,” Manning said. “Really just a momentum boost for us. It felt like even though we were down one, it was tied or almost like we had the lead. To get that field goal and get points knowing we were going to get the ball at the beginning of the second half I thought was really critical.”
Denver rode that wave of momentum into the second half, outscoring Tennessee 31-7. And while Prater’s kick didn’t win the game – as he’s done other times in his career – it certainly did prove to be a catalyst of sorts.
“Everybody was saying, 'It's not the game-winning field goal,'” linebacker
If nothing else, it certainly provided a well-timed spark for a Broncos team trailing by a point headed into the locker room.
“Prater kind of looked at me like, 'Aren't we down one, still?' Colquitt said. “I was like, 'Yeah.' He was like, 'It kind of feels like we're winning, doesn't it?' It definitely did."
Prater noted that he couldn’t have accomplished the feat without the help of Colquitt and long snapper
“He does a great job,” Prater said. “Him and Aaron are super consistent and awesome at what they do.”
And while both Prater and his teammates noted that he’s made field goals from 70-yards or longer in practice, he was quick to point out that he couldn’t have kicked a football much farther given the weather conditions.
“I don’t know about with this weather. Not 10 degrees,” Prater said. “I’m about maxed out.”
But on this frosty Sunday in Denver, Prater’s all was enough to make it a day – and a kick – that he’ll surely never forget.
“I can’t even explain it,” Prater said. “It was just crazy.”