The Broncos' defensive resurgence has vaulted Denver to a winning record and meaningful football in December. From a secondary that has been consistently intercepting some of the league's best quarterbacks to a defensive line that has come up clutch with timely fumble recoveries, the Broncos' defense is turning takeaways and sound execution into wins.
One of the defensive stars, cornerback Pat Surtain II, joined NFL Network’s “The Insiders” show to break down the reasons behind Denver's remarkable defensive improvement.
"We had to come to the realization that that wasn't the type of defenses that we [were] going to be," Surtain said of Denver's early-season performance. "It wasn't only us as a defense, but us as a team as well, too — we [weren't] playing our best ball. We just really hold ourselves to a standard. We changed our mentality, changed our work ethic and attitude. … It showed on Sundays, just by the way how we force turnovers, how we're able to fly to the ball and make plays."
In addition to talking about the Broncos' ability to generate takeaways, Surtain discussed the physicality that has been a key characteristic of Denver's defensive play.
That physicality was most apparent on Sunday, when the Broncos outgained the Cleveland Browns, one of the league's best rushing and defensive teams, by 62 rushing yards in a decisive 29-12 win.
"There are a lot of physical defenses out there, but I just believe our standard is to be the most physical team out there," Surtain said. "Every Sunday, we've been showing that because just the way we go about our business, the way how we prep, the way how we practice, the way how we fly around to the ball. We just try to bring out a type of physical attitude, a type of defense that opposing offenses fear. That's what we try to do best and cause pressure on offenses."
After taking on one of their most run-heavy opponents in Cleveland, Surtain and the Broncos are tasked with slowing one of the best passing attacks in rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud's Houston Texans. Like the Broncos, the Texans have taken major strides in 2023 and rank second leaguewide in passing yardage per game.
For Surtain, his afternoon could include matchups against the Texans' promising receivers, Tank Dell and Nico Collins. The receiving duo has combined for more than 1,500 receiving yards in 10 games, but Surtain is looking forward to the challenge.
"I always love the individual matchups, those one-on-one matchups, mano a mano," Surtain said. "The anticipation is there, but you prepare so much to study certain receivers throughout the film study. When you have the chance to go against one of the best premier receivers in the league early on in his career, it means a lot."