Duel between 'loneliest' players could decide Super Bowl

Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:46pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - If one is the loneliest number, then Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater and his Seattle Seahawks counterpart, Steven Hauschka, can certainly count themselves in singular company as they prepare for the Super Bowl.

With five of the last six Super Bowls having been decided by less than a touchdown, Sunday's title clash at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey could well come down to a kicking contest between Prater and Hauschka.

The two men perform the loneliest roles in the National Football League. When they succeed and kick field goals between the uprights from 40 yards to win games, their contribution is often no more than a footnote as the story is told.

Conversely, when they succumb to the agony of a miss with the glory of a championship or even a regular-season game on the line, their role is widely analyzed and criticized.

The kicker becomes a major talking point in defeat; in victory he is often barely acknowledged.

Statistics indicate that field goals are being made from increasingly longer distances, and that makes misses all the more striking - especially in the rarefied atmosphere of a Super Bowl.

Though the pressure of making a precision kick with very little time left on the clock is always intense, Prater said he would embrace the chance to earn the winning points for the Broncos on Sunday.

"I'm hoping it doesn't come to that and we're 10 points in front," the 29-year-old told reporters. "But if it does, I'm ready for it. I just have to treat it like any other kick.

"This is what all the practice is for. It's not something I ever dreamt about as a kid, but if I'm in that situation, I'll be ready. I expect to make any kick that they send me out for."   Continued...

Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater celebrates after he kicked the game tying field goal in regulation against the Chicago Bears in their NFL football game in Denver December 11, 2011. REUTERS/Rick Wilking