ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On the Broncos' third defensive series, first-round pick Pat Surtain II got his first taste of life as an NFL cornerback.
Starting left cornerback Kyle Fuller came off the field, and Surtain took his place on the outside of the defense for the Giants' seven-play series. The result was less than ideal — Sterling Shepard, whom Surtain was guarding, scored a 37-yard touchdown to cap the drive — but the Broncos wanted to find a way to get the ninth-overall pick on the field.
"We just wanted him to play some," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "He's too good of a player to only play in the dime package [six defensive backs], so we want to have him ready, and we're grooming him — not grooming him — but he deserves to play some, so we're going to play him some."
Fangio said the Broncos planned to play Surtain at the outside cornerback spot for one series in each half. The flow of the game, though, altered the Broncos' plans. Denver's first drive of the second half took more than eight minutes off the clock, and by the time the defense took the field again, New York was looking to push the ball down the field.
"We drove the ball a pretty good ways time-wise," Fangio said, "so we went out there for the first series and then the next time we were out on the field, I believe it was the fourth quarter, so we just decided to finish it that way because we might be playing more dime."
Surtain played 26 percent of the team's defensive snaps, and Fangio said he was largely happy with the first-round pick's performance.
"He did good," Fangio said of Surtain's play. "There weren't a ton of plays, but I was pleased with his play overall."
On the touchdown reception, Fangio said Surtain's coverage needed to be tighter.
"We could have helped him out in a couple of other instances on that play that would have made that pickup a little easier," Fangio said, "but he does have to be tighter on it."
Surtain will likely get more opportunities soon to work as the team's left cornerback in the near future.
As Fangio noted Monday, the Alabama product is just too good to keep off the field.
For much of the game, the Broncos' rushing attack picked up small chunks.
Two yards here. Five yards there. Another short gain, then one for nine yards.
Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams didn't make splash plays early — Denver didn't have a rushing play of 10 yards through nearly three quarters — but they remained committed to the run and their average improved throughout the gain.
"It's something you still have to learn every week because it's tough," Gordon said Monday of being patient. "You put in work and you want a big run early. The earlier the better, but you just have to stay with it, you know you just got to — you know you can't overdo it, can't overthink, do too much, kind of just got to stay with the game plan, flow of the game. Like Teddy [Bridgewater] said, 'Jab, jab and then pow.' There you go."
In the first frame, the Broncos averaged 3.0 yards per carry. That jumped to 3.2 yards per carry in the second quarter. It improved again to 5.3 yards per carry in the third quarter.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the dam broke. Gordon broke free for a 70-yard run that iced the game and pushed the veteran back over 100 yards for the game.
"The big part of their plan was obvious: they wanted to stop the runs, wanted to stop our boot game," Fangio said. "They made schematically drastic measures to do that. They were successful with it early, that's why we had more success passing, but we did stay with it. If you stay with — not only Melvin's long run but we popped a couple 10-yarders in there, too, and a couple six-yarders. Those were critical because those set up third and shorts-to-medium that we were able to convert. So, yeah, we'd like to be a team that could stay with the run even if it's not going."
AN UNLIKELY RESULT
The Broncos' lone turnover of Week 1 came as second-year tight end Albert Okwuegbunam turned upfield inside the 5-yard line and had the ball ripped away by Logan Ryan. Okwuegbunam clearly lost the football before going to the ground, but the aftermath was far from clear.
The ruling on the field was that Logan recovered the ball inbounds, along the sideline. The replay, though, appeared to show that Ryan didn't gain possession until his knee was already out of bounds.
Initially, it appeared the play would be overturned, as the Broncos sent their offense back onto the field after a lengthy review. Right before play resumed, though, the officials upheld the call on the field.
Asked about the call on Monday, Fangio said they referees initially decided to overturn the call but were overruled by a replay official at headquarters.
"They first told me — and you guys probably saw that they were talking to me the whole way — they first told me it's going be our ball," Fangio said. "They were just figuring out where to exactly place it and the timing element of it, and then he came back and said, 'You're not going to like this.'
"The head guy in New York came in and said, 'Let it stand,' and the head guy overruled the first guy's verdict on it."
The turnover didn't hurt the Broncos too badly, as they forced a three-and-out and then scored a touchdown on the next drive.