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Denver elevated Matt Prater to the Pro Bowl

Chicago Bears v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Broncos kicker Matt Prater set a new NFL record with a 64-yard field goal this season, and so it wasn’t surprising that Prater was one of the two kickers chosen to this season’s Pro Bowl, along with Baltimore’s Justin Tucker. But while it wasn’t surprising, it also wasn’t deserving.

Prater benefited from the effects of Denver’s altitude, where the air is less dense and kicked footballs travel farther. And a closer look at Prater’s numbers this season makes clear that he was far from the best kicker in the league when he wasn’t benefiting from that elevation.

Prater’s 64-yard field goal was impressive, but lots of NFL kickers could make a field goal that long in Denver if given the opportunity. Away from Denver, Prater didn’t show off a particularly strong leg: His longest field goal on the road this season was good from just 50 yards, at Dallas.

Overall, Prater had a good season on field goals, but not as good as Denver’s altitude made him look. Field goals, however, are only part of a kicker’s job.

On kickoffs, Prater was even more dependent on Denver’s altitude: Prater had 54 touchbacks in Denver this season and only 22 touchbacks on the road. In fact, Prater’s touchback rate on the road this season was 45.8 percent. Far from being Pro Bowl-worthy, that’s below the league average.

Tucker did deserve to be one of the kickers in the 2014 Pro Bowl, but there were better options than Prater for the other Pro Bowl kicker spot. Graham Gano of the Panthers led the NFL in touchback rate on kickoffs at 77.6 percent despite not benefiting from elevation, and Gano was also better than Prater on long field goals, going 6-for-6 from 50 yards and beyond, compared to 5-for-6 for Prater. Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots also would have been a better choice than Prater: Gostkowski kicked off for touchbacks at a 64.1 percent clip and was 5-for-6 from 50 yards and beyond.

Prater had a solid year overall, but the two Pro Bowl spots should have gone to the two best kickers. And Prater only looked like he was one of the NFL’s two best kickers because he was kicking at elevation.

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39 Responses to “Denver elevated Matt Prater to the Pro Bowl”
  1. jbaxt says: Dec 28, 2013 11:10 AM

    Should we put an asterisk by peypeys passing record too? Clearly that’s the reason for him selecting Denver as his destination, especially with the inability of that defense. Too bad he only looks for individual accolades, otherwise he’d be a real winner.

  2. bronco1991 says: Dec 28, 2013 11:18 AM

    His 64 yard kick was in Denver’s altitude but don’t forget the ball was hard as rock with the temp being in the single digits.

  3. marcuswelby1 says: Dec 28, 2013 11:19 AM

    Gostkowski is the best pressure kicker in the league.

  4. logast says: Dec 28, 2013 11:37 AM

    Gostkowski got robbed. Sure Prater is a good kick, but Steve is better. More points, and Prater has half of his total from extra points.

  5. blackngold4life says: Dec 28, 2013 12:08 PM

    He also benefited from the Broncos being on national TV every week. I like the fan vote but it should be based on the numbers not popularity

  6. alecwelch says: Dec 28, 2013 12:16 PM

    Let me get this straight.. Prater sets record for longest fg in history, in a place where 3/4 former record holders hit it, and it’s less impressive? He sets the record for most extra points, which means his chances for fgs has been decreased. But Gano is more deserving because he’s got more touchbacks and hit one more long distance fg? Since when are touchbacks more important than points?

  7. slick50ks says: Dec 28, 2013 12:18 PM

    Dempseys 63 yarder below sea level is still the real record.

    donkey kickers have always had the artificial kicking help.

  8. broncofan89 says: Dec 28, 2013 12:20 PM

    So it’s Praters fault he played on one of the best offenses in NFL history and half his points came from extra points?

  9. chemebiker says: Dec 28, 2013 12:25 PM

    “His 64 yard kick was in Denver’s altitude but don’t forget the ball was hard as rock with the temp being in the single digits.”

    Also, the air being as wicked cold as it was, made it a lot more dense, in large part offsetting the “advantage” on that day.

    Just look at other kickers stats when temps drop less than 10 Degrees.

    You can’t argue with science and math. His record has no asterisk.

  10. tdshouldbeinthehall says: Dec 28, 2013 12:28 PM

    Prater has the best field goal percentage in the league and the longest field goal ever this year, but he doesn’t belong in the pro bowl because teams are more likely to return the ball because they need big plays to keep up with the Broncos O. Also no need to mention that his record breaker was like kicking a brick in 12 degree weather.

  11. eagles3333 says: Dec 28, 2013 12:29 PM

    I was at the game in Denver when he set the record. I had Warners in snow boots, and still couldn’t feel my toes. It was extremely cold. His kick was amazing under the conditions. Give him some credit.

  12. seanb20124 says: Dec 28, 2013 12:29 PM

    Why are kickers selected to the pro bowl?

  13. bronco6745 says: Dec 28, 2013 12:32 PM

    He also made that record fg when it was so cold he couldn’t feel his foot. He’s owed a pro bowl after kicking all those 50+ yarders to win games when tebow was qb.

  14. EJ says: Dec 28, 2013 12:33 PM

    So since kicking is easier in the higher elevation, does that mean that passing is easier too? Does the ball go farther or faster?

    One negative about playing there is that with higher altitude comes less oxygen. That is why you see so many players there grabbing supplemental oxygen on the sidelines. So one benefit is knocked out by one drawback.

  15. 540bronco says: Dec 28, 2013 12:38 PM

    A few years ago I recall Prater hitting a 55 yarder in Tampa Bay that Jon Gruden was quoted as saying would have been good from 70 yards out. Prater without a doubt has one of the strongest legs in the league and hes also turned himself into one of the more accurate kickers in the league.

  16. atwatercrushesokoye says: Dec 28, 2013 12:44 PM

    Are you new to this? The nature of the Pro Bowl is that there will be players selected over other possibly more deserving candidates at other positions, it happens every single year. Take QB for example, are Tom Brady and especially Russell Wilson 2 of the absolute 6 best in the league this year?

    Russell Wilson is 18th in the league in passing yards and has had more games below 150 yards passing (4) as he does over 250 yards passing (also 4), no he was selected because he’s a great leader for the top team in the NFC.

    And is Tom Brady has been decent this year but do his 60% completion percentage and 24 touchdown passes really scream he’s one of the 6 best this year, or was he selected because he’s been a high level QB for a lot of years and fans and players want to see him recognized because of that?

  17. COSBenny says: Dec 28, 2013 12:53 PM

    Wade Phillips guest post I guess? Of course his percentage of kickoffs for touchbacks was lower, Denver averages 8 points per game more than then next team in the league and 15 points per game more than the median. In other words, Prater had 2 to 3 kickoffs more per game than the median kicker. All season long other teams have taken chances against Denver that they don’t take against other teams because anyway you can get points has to be considered when they’re running up 38+ per game. He had only one other kick over 50 yards because the offense was close to automatic inside the 35. Sure, Peyton’s stats are inflated due to dink and dunk… he has 34 red zone touchdowns to zero INTs. To say that “plenty of kickers” could kick it 64 yards is the height of idiocy; we’ve been playing professional football for 54 years in this town and it hasn’t been done before. If plenty could do it Wade (I mean, MDS), than why has it never been done before? And that’s before you consider that the elevation was 100% offset by the temperature being 12 degrees on the 64 yarder. Tucker’s 61 yard kick, while awesome and more clutch, was inside a climate-controlled dome. This is the same sort of East Coast garbage behind the Broncos having three players ever voted into the Hall of Fame and one legacy in Floyd Little, five fewer players in the HOF than the Bills (9!) despite more Super Bowl appearances and two more wins. Elway had more fourth quarter comebacks because of the altitude. Terrell Davis ran for more yards because of the altitude. Randy Gradishar had more tackles in a season because the official scorer was a homer drunk/toked on altitude. We get it. Laws of physics only selectively apply to a freakishly weird place that hates taxes and loves its doobie. You could just as easily say that Tucker has had his stats inflated from Flacco sucking in the red zone this year where Baltimore is ranked 30th in red zone efficiency.

  18. jeromez420 says: Dec 28, 2013 12:54 PM

    More East Coast bias. It’s not like people in Denver walk around with oxygen masks and Sherpas. Denver has been hosting football games for over 50 years. Why hasn’t the record been shattered every season?

  19. bruiseddeath says: Dec 28, 2013 1:15 PM

    I do see a point to a degree with the elevation helping with distance. Still one forgets the accuracy is very important. If a kicker is a little off in close range, the kick will still more than likely be good. There is a whole lot less margin for error at 50 plus yards. A slight miss hit at that distance will pull or push the ball well away from the goal posts….

    Prater has a heck of a high percentage on 50 plus yard kicks…

  20. greg2geez says: Dec 28, 2013 1:18 PM

    You mean a player made the Pro Bowl without deserving it??!! Clearly it’s unprecedented!

  21. etoharin78 says: Dec 28, 2013 1:25 PM

    The effects of altitude are constantly overblown by those that don’t live here in Denver, or at similar elevations. Bet this post gets deleted (again) because it’s contrary to the author’s opinion based on nothing more than experiences less than a day old at altitude.

  22. elwaysmilehighdenver says: Dec 28, 2013 1:25 PM

    Matt Prater is money. The best kicker in the league. Pro bowl worthy! Congrats Matt!

  23. ncm42 says: Dec 28, 2013 1:30 PM

    Plenty of other kickers ‘could’ make it from 64 in Denver? Maybe. That said, 8 other kickers play here every year since The Broncos franchise started playing games. Of the thousands of kickers who have played there, he is the ONLY one who HAS done it. I didn’t realize “could have” was a stat now.

    Elway “could have” thrown for 100,000 yards had Reeves not shackled him. Barry Sanders “could have” rushed for 50,000 yards had he not retired.

  24. greg2geez says: Dec 28, 2013 1:32 PM

    Isn’t dropping the Pro Bowl because it’s a meaningless game the players don’t take seriously one of the windmills you’re regularly running at?

  25. labfan30 says: Dec 28, 2013 1:44 PM

    Good lord. He missed one kick all year. I wouldn’t have cried had another kicker received the nod, but to act like he is undeserving is idiotic. As others have said, if it’s so easy, why has nobody ever kicked a 64 yarder before? I mean, we should have seen at least 70 by now, right?

    It isn’t like the Broncos are flush with pro bowlers anyway. QB, WR, TE, G, K 5 guys. Funny, that’s the same number of DEFENSIVE players the Chiefs put on the team. Ya know, the one the team the Broncos torched for over 960 yards in two games against.

    Give it a rest.

  26. bst3975 says: Dec 28, 2013 2:04 PM

    Maybe some other kickers could do it, but most coaches are not going to let them try because the consequences of missing are so great. Has to be exactly the right scenario.

  27. nou04 says: Dec 28, 2013 2:31 PM

    That is just ridiculous crap to say he only did so good because of altitude. That is where his team plays, 8, games a year. Should he apologize for it? Should he be punished for it and not make the Pro Bowl because of it? What a freaking stupid article and dumb ass for even putting it in print.

  28. combatchuk says: Dec 28, 2013 2:39 PM

    Matt Prater goes 11/11 in FGs on the road, and now ProFootballTalk says he doesn’t deserve the Pro Bowl because he sucks on the road?

  29. revskip says: Dec 28, 2013 2:43 PM

    Don’t hate the Prater hate the game?

  30. ravenswhat says: Dec 28, 2013 3:12 PM

    This entire Denver team is going to choke in the next few weeks. We all know it.

  31. afcdomination says: Dec 28, 2013 3:31 PM

    somehow Colquitt and his 6.5 yards allowed per return and 35 inside the 20 didn’t make it either after holding the vote lead. some interesting player and coach voting taking place

  32. electstat says: Dec 28, 2013 3:56 PM

    Most ill-informed article I’ve read on here in at least a day. I guess actual research isn’t needed when you are just a blogger.

  33. infectorman says: Dec 28, 2013 4:01 PM

    Brady and Gostkowski play home games (and most others) at sea level.

    Manning/ Prater need a little extra atmospheric assistance to play so well.

    remember? Manning in playing in NE this year?

    bahahaha! Go Raiders!

  34. johnnyjagfan says: Dec 28, 2013 4:48 PM

    If given the opportunity? Ha! Only once has it happened. Opportunity? Smh.

  35. fnf417 says: Dec 28, 2013 8:16 PM

    Joke

  36. stickygohan says: Dec 28, 2013 9:50 PM

    For you naysayers. Prater led the league in accuracy at 95.8%. Tucker was at 92.1% and Gano was at 88.9%.

  37. ctpatsfan77 says: Dec 28, 2013 9:58 PM

    As the article notes, Prater only attempted ONE kick of 50+ yards on the road.

    The difference is not vast, but I’d put the order at:

    1. Gostkowski
    2. Tucker
    3. Prater
    4. Gano
    5. Folk

  38. auburnfan2013 says: Dec 29, 2013 8:12 AM

    Well deserved Matt Prater. The most accurate kicker in the league this year and the owner of the all time longest field goal. He deserves his pro bowl spot

  39. hikai77 says: Jan 28, 2014 5:49 PM

    Wow…what a hater. How much distance do you think altitude adds to a kick? You do realize when he is kicking from 50+, Prater oftentimes hits the net on the fly, which is a good 10 yards beyond the end line. First of all, to claim that he is obviously limited at sea-level because of the lack of kicks at sea-level ignores the simple factor of attempts. And Gostkowski had the chance to kick at Denver in the Championship Game, guess what, Belicheck passed up a 57 yard FG attempt by Gostkowski and CHOSE TO PUNT!

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