ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Who's ready for Round 2?
Seven weeks after cornerback Pat Surtain II battled Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, the two players will face off again on Sunday in the Broncos' Week 11 meeting with Las Vegas.
This duo first matched up in Week 4, and it was every bit the epic faceoff fans expected. Adams was able to exceed 100 receiving yards in the Raiders' 32-23 win over the Broncos, but the majority of his production came in the small percentage of snaps in which he faced coverage from someone other than Surtain. The second-year cornerback covered Adams on 71 percent of his routes, and Surtain broke up two passes while limiting him to four receptions for 46 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.
It was one of just three games this season in which Adams was unable to find the end zone, and the veteran wide receiver will undoubtedly look to change that on Sunday. Adams' eight touchdowns in 2022 are tied for the league lead, but Surtain is one of just five NFL cornerbacks (min. 300 snaps) to not allow a touchdown in coverage this season.
Unstoppable force, meet immovable object.
The Raiders have been one of the few teams to throw in Surtain's direction this season, as most opposing quarterbacks have simply avoided targeting him altogether. Per Pro Football Reference, Raiders quarterback Derrick Carr targeted Surtain 14 times in Week 4; comparatively, no other team has targeted the young cornerback more than six times in a single game. In the upcoming rematch against Las Vegas, Surtain may finally get more opportunities to make a play.
"I'm looking forward to it," Surtain said Thursday. "Obviously when I look at the first game, there's some things I could correct going against [Adams], just some minor adjustments, but I'm looking forward to it. Obviously he's a great player, so it's going to be a matchup. It's going to be a showdown."
Perhaps no one is more excited to watch these two stars battle it out than Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett, who worked closely with Adams during his tenure as the Packers' offensive coordinator from 2019-21.
"Without a doubt, I think it's going to be a great matchup," Hackett said. "We saw it last time that they went after it. [They are] two guys that I have so much respect for and are playing at an unbelievably high level right now. I think everybody is going to be excited to see those two guys go at it. I don't think that they're afraid to test him, and I don't think Pat is afraid to be tested. It'll be a fun matchup there."
Surtain has been able to limit some of the league's top receivers this season, including the Seahawks' DK Metcalf, the Chargers' Mike Williams, the 49ers' Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and the Colts' Michael Pittman Jr., but he noted that Adams presents a unique challenge. The two-time first-team All-Pro is one of the most talented route runners in the NFL, and he can quickly adapt to different coverages.
"With him, he's very savvy, he's smart with his technique, he knows how to read DBs, whether they are in press or they are off, and he just knows how to get open," Surtain said. "He knows how to read defenses well, too. Carr trusts in him and trusts in his abilities, so that brings him more confidence. He's just a great all-around player."
Most cornerbacks would be content with holding one of the greatest receivers in the league to just 46 yards, but Surtain has proven that he is not like most cornerbacks. The young star continuously works to improve his technique, even when there is not much to improve upon. As he prepares to face Adams again on Sunday, Surtain is meticulously studying film to learn Adams' tendencies and pick up on any differences in the wide receiver's approach since the first time they matched up.
"We played [Adams] in Week 4," Surtain said. "You could see some changeups throughout the weeks, prior to this week. You pick up on certain stuff in the film room, in the meetings and stuff like that. That's how I prepare. I'll pick up new things that he does and new releases from that standpoint, just try to get an eye on that and just prepare. Just switching up my technique and switching up the way how I'm approaching it this time around."
If Surtain can contain Adams once again in Week 11, it will add to the cornerback's growing resume for this year's end-of-season accolades. He is not only seeking his first Pro Bowl berth, but several national NFL analysts have included Surtain in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. His lack of targets have contributed to modest stats this season, but Surtain is nonetheless playing at an elite level.
"I think he is very deserving [of Defensive Player of the Year]," Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero said Thursday. "I think sometimes stats are very misleading, and if you look at the numbers, they're not going to tell you anything. But if you watch the film, this guy is playing as good of football as anybody in the NFL."