ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When Caden Sterns was just a fan of the NFL and not one of its players, he'd go to YouTube to see the best football the league had to offer.
In the search bar, he'd type, say, "Jalen Ramsey vs. DeAndre Hopkins" and proceed to watch two dominant players go head to head. For Sterns and so many other fans of the game, the one-on-one battle between a top receiver and top cornerback may be the game distilled down to its most exciting matchup.
It puts on display a combination of incredible physical gifts and technical skill, and which player comes out victorious on any pass play can provide a game-changing moment based on any number of factors.
On a weekly basis, there are several good or even great matchups like that, but even rarer are the matchups between a receiver and cornerback who are each considered at or near the top of their respected positions.
Sunday's game between the Broncos and Raiders will spotlight one of those few extraordinary battles, as Pat Surtain II will face off with wideout Davante Adams for the first time.
"It's going to be very exciting," Jerry Jeudy said Thursday. "That's a matchup I'm interested to watch because Davante Adams is a great receiver [and] Pat's a great DB. … Greatness going against each other's always going to be exciting. I'm excited to see that. I know, me, I watch Davante Adams highlights a lot. So watching that … and me going against Pat and knowing how difficult it is to win on Pat consistently, it's going to be a fun matchup."
The two stars may be at different points in their respective careers, but the talent has been evident on both sides so far.
Adams, already an established force in the NFL, has earned Pro Bowl selections in each of the past five seasons and earned first-team All-Pro nods the last two years. Since Adams entered the league in 2014, no player has caught more touchdowns, and he has the most receiving yards since the start of the 2018 season.
"He's seen the ins and outs of the league," Surtain said Wednesday. "He's very experienced at what he does. He perfects his craft. As years go on, he gets better each and every year. I just think that he's just a technician at what he does. That's the best thing he does."
Prior to arriving in Las Vegas this past offseason, Adams formed half of a dominant passing tandem with Aaron Rodgers, but in joining the Raiders, Adams reunited with his former college quarterback, Derek Carr. Through three weeks, Carr and Adams have connected for a touchdown in each game, though Adams' yardage total has lagged compared to previous years. Adams is the only player with at least one touchdown in every game this season, but he's caught just seven passes for 48 yards over the last two weeks.
"You just have to try to slow him down," said Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett, who spent time with Adams in Green Bay. "He's a guy who I've been with for the past three years. He's an amazing human being and somebody that's very dear to my heart. But at the same time, we have to stop him. I know that he's a dynamic receiver with how he can get the ball vertically, intermediate and all over the place. He is very smart football player. We're going to have to do our best to contain him as much as we can. [The] defense has done a fine job up to this point in the past three games. It's going to be a great, great challenge for all. It's not just going to be one guy. It's going to take the whole team to know where he is and how to stop him."
Through three games, the Raiders have struggled to get wins, but their passing attack has performed as expected. It ranks in the top 10 in both passing yardage and touchdowns, and it has also produced the fifth-most explosive passing plays, according to Stathead.
"With a receiver like that, he just creates YAC — yards after catch," Surtain said. "That's why he's one of the best in the league. But we're … going to try to minimize him from making those explosive plays."
As the Broncos' top cornerback, Surtain will assuredly get his opportunities to defend Adams. While the second-year cornerback doesn't have the accolades that Adams does, Surtain has followed up on a great rookie year with some stellar outings early in the 2022 season. According to Pro Football Focus, Surtain has allowed 45 yards on 14 targets, and a week ago, he broke up two passes and didn't allow a single completion.
Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero wouldn't say whether Surtain will line up against Adams on every play or stick to one side of the field, but he noted the importance of trying to make the defense unpredictable for the wily vet.
"I don't want to give up too much of the game plan, but he's a heck of a cover guy," Evero said Thursday. "Davante's a tough cover for anybody, even the best corners in the league, and we've just got to change up the looks on him."
Surtain's teammates expect him to be up to the challenge, though, and they'll be as excited as the spectators to watch how it unfolds.
"It's going to be pretty cool to see that up front on the field, you know?" Sterns said. "Pat is … man, he's different. I don't know how to even say it. Personally just seeing him, being in the same class since high school, being around him, you could always tell that. I feel like he was NFL-ready in high school. That's not even crazy to say. It's going to be exciting. …
"You watch Davante, he's very skilled. His skill set, he's very crafty in what he does. Everything he does, he already has plans to how to attack somebody. And if that plan doesn't work, he has another tool to get to. I feel like Pat, on the other hand, he's the same way. One, he's very gifted athletically, and two, technically, there's not too many that can beat him, especially in press."
It may be impossible to project what the outcome will be, but one thing is for certain: It'll be must-see video.
"After the game," Jeudy said, "I'm for sure going on YouTube to see that matchup."