ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The first two seasons of Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II’s career have been nothing short of impressive, but the disappointment enveloping the team’s season has found its way to his locker.
Among the things that didn’t go nearly as well as the Broncos (3-7) wanted in the 22-16 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders this past Sunday — the Broncos’ third overtime loss of the season — was the seven-catch, 141-yard, two-touchdown afternoon by Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams. Not all of the breakdowns came on Surtain’s watch, but he trailed Adams on the 35-yard touchdown in overtime that ended the game.
Adams was caught on camera after the play saying Surtain “is not there yet.”
“It’s tough when things like that happen,” Surtain said. “You compete and that’s tough. All I can do is do what I need to do, correct what needs to be corrected and get better. That’s always my mindset.”
“Davante definitely likes to create some excitement there. I think it’s great,” said Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett, who spent three seasons with Adams when Hackett was the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator. “We’re going to see a lot of great battles with those two guys. That’s one great thing about him being in this division. He’s going to test Pat and Pat is going to test him.”
The Week 12 game was really the first time in his young NFL career when Surtain felt the sting of a final play that didn’t go his way.
The Broncos have spent much of the season among the league’s top three in pass defense, as well as scoring defense. Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has repeatedly said Surtain is a player “we can do a lot of things with because he’s up to any challenge we give him.”
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His 14 passes defended in 2021 were the second-most by a Broncos rookie in franchise history — just behind retired corner Domonique Foxworth, who had 16 passes defended in his rookie season in 2005. This season, even with Adams’ effort this past Sunday , few quarterbacks have elected to challenge Surtain all that often.
Evero said Surtain has affected almost everything opposing quarterbacks do even though Surtain doesn’t have an interception this season.
“I have full confidence in it [Surtain]Evero said. “… He’s going to bounce back [from Sunday]. He’s going to be just fine.”
Secondary coaches know those who dwell on their mistakes, even for a play let alone a day or a week, are more likely to make more mistakes. Especially when positioning and angles — “leverage” as the defensive backs call it — are more important than ever as contact with receivers is a “point of emphasis” almost annually from the league’s officials.
“It’s why he and I have talked about competitiveness,” Surtain’s father, Patrick Surtain, an 11-year cornerback in the NFL and currently a Miami Dolphins assistant coach, said earlier this season. “You want that fire, that desire to line up and battle on every snap, but you can’t be angry in a way where you lose your technique or your positioning. He’s always had that ability to compete at the highest level and keep his calm.”
He showed some of that in the aftermath of Sunday. Visibly disappointed from what had just transpired, Surtain kept his composure as he answered the inevitable questions.
Denver’s two defensive captains — safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson — also took a few moments to talk him through things Surtain hadn’t likely felt after a game, maybe, ever.
“He knows,” Jackson said. “This league is about consistency in everything you do, how you prepare, how you react to things. Good or bad, you line up the next play, prepared and ready to go again. That’s what it is and he does that every day.”
Surtain, who has surrendered just three completions longer than 20 yards this season, has been one of the least-targeted cornerbacks in the league overall this season, even with the attention the Raiders gave him Sunday. But he certainly has some potentially buckle-the-chinstrap days left on the schedule with two games against the Chiefs as well as the Rams and Chargers over the final two weeks of the season.
“You just work and correct what needs correcting,” Surtain said. “That’s what you can do and what I can do. Just get better and I will.”