In a game where the Las Vegas Raiders' marque stars like Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby, Josh Jacobs, and Davante Adams produced when it really mattered, the Denver Broncos' go-to-guys disappeared. That's been the repetitive storyline of Denver's entire season, and one which is lurching inevitably towards the organization firing yet another head coach.
One player the Broncos thought they could hitch their wagon to is star cornerback Patrick Surtain II — who spent the bulk of the day lined up opposite the Raiders' All-Pro Adams.
Undoubtedly, Adams came out on top in his head-to-head battle with Surtain, including the final walk-off 35-yard touchdown in overtime. Surtain received perhaps the first major bloody nose of his young career, and post-game, he owned up to getting his coverage assignment wrong on the game's defining play.
“I was driving on the cross end. He went on a double move,” Surtain detailed post-game. “[I] should have kept my leverage, but [I] have to correct that.”
Adams took the opportunity to twist the knife before even exiting the field.
"He too young," Adams hollered to the FOX Sports cameras. "He ain't there yet! He's not there yet!"
In all of Denver's previous losses, the finger of blame has clearly been pointed at the inept offense, but responsibility for this seventh defeat lands equally on the defense.
Defensive team captain Justin Simmons was keen to stress that the Broncos failed collectively as a unit, despite the rolling highlights predictably showcasing where Surtain went so obviously wrong.
“First, I’m not trying to be rude or anything, but I know how it can be. [No.] 1, it’s not his fault," Simmons said post-game. "This game is not on one guy, ever. There are 11 guys out there on the field, and we all have a responsibility, especially in overtime, to make a play, get off the field, and give our offense a chance to win the game—that’s first and foremost."
Simmons rests assured that Surtain will bounce back.
"Secondly, he’s a competitor," Simmons said of Surtain. "Regardless, of what anyone says to him, it’s going to sting and it’s going to hurt knowing that you could have made a few plays and you just fall short. But that’s part of the competitive nature. When you are the best at what you do, and you’re going up against the best in what they do, week-in and week-out, obviously the competitor in you is going to want to win more times than you lose.”
Surtain is fated to return to form — such is his dedication, mental strength, and sheer physical ability. But perhaps Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels has shown that if you have a stud receiver like Adams at your disposal, you shouldn't be afraid to mix it with Surtain.
In recent weeks, opposing coaches had been opting to leave Surtain in splendid isolation on his side of the field, so that might change down the stretch. The Broncos' young corner had been playing himself into contention for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award, but that possibility has almost certainly gone up in smoke in the wake of this clutch-time faux pas and Denver's lack of team success.
Surtain has no option but to dust himself off and make the necessary adjustments, which is the job description of an elite cornerback — and that's exactly what he has in mind.
“It’s tough,” Surtain said. “I just have to do what I need to do, correct what I need to correct and get better. That’s it.”
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