Prater passes test in first revenge game

Shaun Prater held up amazingly well in his Vikings debut on defense and it went far beyond the first interception of his career. He is in the midst of a highly anticipated two-game stretch facing former teams, comparing himself to a pit bull finally being freed.

Shaun Prater is in the middle of a professional high with fortuitous timing allowing him to go on a revenge tour.

Claimed by the Philadelphia Eagles off waivers on Sept. 1, he spent seven weeks there, playing in one game and the rest of the time on their practice squad before they waived him in October. Enter the Vikings, who claimed him on Oct. 23.

With Minnesota, Prater played in five of the first seven games exclusively on special teams before his break came at the expense of an injured Chris Cook. The opponent was, to Prater's advantage, the team that released him in October, the Eagles.

"I've been spending eight or nine weeks getting ready just for this one game. … I was on scout team with the Eagles this past whatever it was so I had (insight) to the wide receivers," Prater said after Sunday's 48-30 win over the Eagles.

"It is like a pit bull locked in a cage. He's waiting and waiting and finally gets out. The only thing he's focused on is getting to that bone. I was finally given that bone today."

In this case, that bone was the ball. Prater became only the second active Vikings cornerbacks to have an interception this season, joining Marcus Sherels, who also was a backup promoted to the starting lineup Sunday because of injuries in the secondary.

"(Prater) just played hard and played smart," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Even that interception that he had, they're running kind of a deceptive play, sending a guy to the post. (Prater) is a deep-third defender and he doesn't follow the guy to the post. He knows that Harrison (Smith) is there: I don't have to chase this receiver. And there is DeSean Jackson coming up the sideline behind him. And rather than just following a guy he doesn't have to cover, he's smart enough and aware enough to fall off and make a great play. Usually, that's a guy who has been playing a while and has been in that situation a number of times and makes that play. But his awareness and his acute alertness of what needed to happen was impressive to see. He made some other plays too that shows you he's a very aware guy and very smart football player."

The interception happened in the third quarter with the Vikings holding a 24-9 lead. Had Jackson caught the ball, the Eagles would have been on the doorstep of the end zone. Instead, Prater jumped for the ball in the front of Jackson and returned it 33 yards while Jackson stood and watched in the end zone.

Prater said going against Philadelphia's receivers while part of the scout team there helped him know the tendencies of the receivers. In 69 defensive snaps, he held up amazingly well, going from not playing defense with the Vikings to never coming out of the game when they were on defense.

He figured the Eagles would target him since he not only hadn't started before, he hadn't even played a defensive snap for the Vikings.

"Yeah, I was ready for that: new guy, he's been cut twice, but I'm ready," he said. "In practice I'm running around, I'm jumping up for the picks and I'm doing all types of stuff. If you had a camera on me this entire week, I spent so much time watching film, stretching, watching more film and just asking the coaches everything, being a real gnat, and it showed up today."

The Eagles targeted his man or area nine times. He allowed only three catches for 22 yards, including a 1-yard loss. He drew an offensive pass interference on Jason Avant and knocked away a two-point conversion try in the end zone, and his interception wasn't even on a man he was initially covering.

Prater didn't know he would be starting until before the game, when Cook's knee injury wouldn't allow him to break on passes quickly enough.

Prater's status for this week is uncertain. He may or may not be a starter, but, once again, he has motivation when he gets in the game. This time, the Vikings are facing the Cincinnati Bengals, who drafted him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, but he spent last season on Cincinnati's injured reserve because of a training camp knee injury and was released during the final roster cuts on Aug. 31.

"I spent a year-and-a-half with the Bengals so I'm just taking it play by play, doing my job," he said after Sunday's game, well aware that it will present another chance for revenge.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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