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Broncos notebook

Still kicking himself a little

Memorable miss motivates Prater

Snow in Colorado sent linebacker D.J. Williams, cornerback Champ Bailey, and the other Broncos inside for practice yesterday. Snow in Colorado sent linebacker D.J. Williams, cornerback Champ Bailey, and the other Broncos inside for practice yesterday. (Barry gutierrez/Associated Press)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / January 12, 2012
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - There is a thin line between credit and blame, and Broncos kicker Matt Prater has been on both sides of it.

He has been the hero on more than enough occasions this season, capping Tim Tebow’s come-from-behind magic with game-sealing kicks.

But he has been the heel, too. In the 2005 Hawaii Bowl, he made three field goals but missed an extra point in overtime that was the difference in Central Florida’s 49-48 loss to Nevada - and a part of him still hangs on to that awful feeling.

So when some of the praise showered on Tebow sprays his way, he doesn’t get wrapped up in it. Prater has kicked four game-winners this season, but he and Tebow barely talk about it.

“I don’t bug him with that stuff,’’ Prater said. “He has everybody talking to him about that kind of stuff. When I talk to him, we just kind of b.s. back and forth.

“A bunch of people call me and text me after the game. It’s nice hearing about it, but I think a lot more goes into it than just that one kick.

“It’s cool. Maybe I could take a little credit, but I’d rather give the credit to everybody else.’’

It was seven years ago, but the hurt of going out as the goat his senior season in college still lingers. He made field goals from 38, 46, and 47 yards, executed a perfect onside kick to set up the drive that tied the game and forced overtime, but ultimately pushed a routine extra point wide right and let Nevada leave with a 1-point win. He was labeled a choker.

“Nobody remembers the positive things,’’ said Prater. “They only remember the negative.

“Nobody remembers what I did the four years I was at UCF; they just remember that one kick. It’s like, there was a lot more throughout my career than that one kick.’’

Prater is the second-most accurate kicker in Broncos history behind Jason Elam. He’s also clutch.

When he missed a 41-yard attempt in Week 10 against the Chiefs, it was the first time in his five-year career that he missed a kick in the fourth quarter. He had made 22 straight fourth-quarter attempts.

He nailed three straight game-winners against the Chargers, Vikings, and Bears. He is fueled by having been at that low point.

“It was definitely tough,’’ he said. “It was the first time anything like that had happened to me. I’d say it was definitely a learning experience, like anything else. You have to be able to handle the good and the bad.

“So when I have a chance late in the game to make a kick or tie the game, I want to come through because I don’t ever want to feel like that again.

“I just say the next kick is the most important one. So this week, the first kick against New England is the most important one. Then it’s on to the next one.’’

Decker likely out

The Broncos likely will be without Eric Decker Saturday, as their top receiver missed practice again after spraining his left knee against the Steelers. Decker, who leads the club with 44 catches for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns, has started the last 12 games. For insurance, rookie free agent D’Andre Goodwin was activated from the practice squad. “Eric is a great player,’’ said Tebow. “He’s been huge for us all year, but we have a lot of guys that really stepped up in the game. Matt Willis, Eddie Royal, D.T. [Demaryius Thomas] and those guys will step up. They’ll do their job. I’m really proud of them.’’ Safety Brian Dawkins, who has missed three of the last four games with a neck injury, also did not practice and safety David Bruton (Achilles’ tendon), defensive end Elvis Dumervil (ankle), and tight end Daniel Fells (ankle) had limited participation.

The great indoors

The Broncos moved their practice indoors because of snowfall yesterday. “We could have gone outside, but I don’t know that our focus would have been as good as it was in that dome today,’’ said coach John Fox. “That’s why we decided to go there instead of outdoors.’’ . . . Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will interview for the Rams job today. “I’m extremely flattered about it,’’ Allen said. “Obviously, I’m thrilled about it, but really, at the end of the day, my focus is to try to win a game against the New England Patriots, and that’s the only thing that I’m concerned with right now.’’

John Powers contributed to this report. Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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