ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -The Denver Broncos aren't missing Jason Elam, thanks to Matt Prater.
Prater has been steady this season - very Elam-esque - hitting 9 of 10 field goals, including three from beyond 50 yards. He also leads the league in scoring with 41 points.
This from an unproven kicker who had only one field goal on his resume before this season. This from a 24-year-old trying to replace one of the best in league history and the Broncos' all-time leading scorer.
Yet Prater never felt the pressure of taking the place of Elam, who kicked four game-winners last year.
``I know a lot of people were uncertain after having Jason here for so long,'' said Prater, who frequently sends text messages to Elam seeking advice. ``They were spoiled, having a guaranteed kicker like that. I had to go out and show I could do it.''
g Elam when he entered the NFL.
So far, that hasn't been a problem.
``I feel like I've been pretty consistent,'' said Prater, who's tied for the AFC lead with seven touchbacks on kickoffs. ``I'm trying to do the same routine. I even try to breathe the same before each kick.''
Now if he can only get the opposing fans from riding him.
He hit 56- and 51-yard field goals in a 33-19 loss at Kansas City last Sunday, yet a fan parked right next to his kicking net wouldn't let him forget the 28-yard attempt he pulled right.
``He said, 'Jason wouldn't have missed it,''' Prater recounted with a grin. ``I'm going to hear that for the rest of the year.''
Perhaps even the rest of his career in Denver.
But that's life in trying to replace a kicker of Elam's ilk.
``He set the standard here for kickers. You've got to appreciate what Jason's done,'' special teams coordinator Scott O'Brien said. ``Matt just has to be Matt.''
That, he is definitely doing. Prater is as laid back as they come, wearing flannel shirts, refusing to tie his shoe laces and talking in a slow, monotone voice.
He takes his newly found success in stride - admitting he's ``pretty pleased'' with his results so far - and casually claiming he could drill a 70-yarder if given the chance.
Don't snicker. It's hardly a boast.
n practice Wednesday. He said he once made a 73-yarder in practice while kicking at Central Florida.
The NFL record is 63 yards shared by Tom Dempsey and by the kicker Prater is replacing - Elam.
``If there's no wind, I'd say around 70 - if I hit it well,'' Prater said. ``I'm looking forward to it.''
His teammates definitely have confidence in his powerful leg. After the Broncos squeaked out a 34-32 win over the New Orleans Saints - courtesy of a missed 43-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica with around 2 minutes remaining - receiver Brandon Marshall was asked if the team caught a big break.
``They missed a field goal, but we probably have one of the best offenses in the league and when you give us 2 minutes and all we are asked for is just a field goal?'' Marshall retorted. ``We have a kicker that can kick a 66-yarder.''
Unbeknownst to Prater, he was leading the league in scoring, three points ahead of San Diego's Nate Kaeding and San Francisco's Joe Nedney.
Champ Bailey clued him into the fact Thursday, making the announcement in the locker room as he passed on through for a meeting.
``I don't pay attention to that stuff,'' Prater said, ``just take it one kick at a time.''
That's what O'Brien appreciates about Prater - his low-key approach. Prater didn't let his 28-yard miss in Kansas City rattle him, coming back to hit four straight.
r bad,'' O'Brien said. ``You get ready for the next. He did that. He's gaining experience as we go along.''
He's also making sure fans and teammates aren't missing Elam.

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