Patrick Surtain II won the ‘battle of the unicorns’ against D.K. Metcalf

Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II (2) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field.
Sep 12, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II (2) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Now receiving praise from across the entire NFL, Patrick Surtain II has quickly worked his way into being mentioned in the same breath as some of the league’s most elite cornerbacks.

In just his second year as a pro, most would usually be safe to assume that these comparisons are lofty. Being thrown in the conversation with the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Jaire Alexander, and Xavien Howard, should be held for very special players but during Surtain’s Week 1 matchup he showed us where these comparisons are coming from and why they could make sense by year’s end.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the film to see the dominance in Surtain’s performance on Monday Night Football.

Is Patrick Surtain II a modern unicorn?

Playing against the Seattle Seahawks, the first thing of note is how the Broncos deployed Surtain, which made it clear who the Broncos’ defensive staff thinks the best cornerback on the team is. Surtain traveled with D.K. Metcalf the entire night. Whether it was the left side or right side, Surtain was there to cover the opposing team’s best wide receiver.

That’s a rarity in the 2022 NFL, and a responsibility you received for only the most elite cornerbacks.

Looking further into this matchup, Metcalf is an exceptionally unique receiver, being one the freakiest athletes anybody has ever seen in the sport. At 6-foot-3 and around 230 pounds, Metcalf is a massive ball of muscle that moves like lightning, running a 40-yard dash of a 4.33.

At the end of the day, Metcalf is an extremely tough cover for anybody in the league. He is one of the best big play threats in the NFL and often makes defensive backs look silly trying to cover him.

For the Broncos coaching staff to feel like their best chance of limiting him is by having Surtain shadow him all over the field shows a tremendous amount of confidence in such a young player.

For Surtain to manage that responsibility so well shows how can he can change the math for the Broncos’ defense all season long and give them a weekly advantage in limiting the opponent’s most deadly weapons.

Patrick Surtain II showed improved physicality 

By game’s end, Metcalf was highly targeted, ending up with seven receptions but only for 36 yards.

Holding him to so few yards over seven touches is extremely impressive, especially considering Metcalf’s strength, and a lot of the reason for that can be credited to how Surtain and the rest of the Broncos’ defense tackled him after the catch.

As mentioned earlier, Metcalf is an extremely big and fast receiver, making it vital for the Broncos’ defense to take him down before he gets a full head of steam, limiting his yards after catch ability. In fact, Metcalf was only able to have a total of four yards after the catch through all of his seven receptions.

While the entire defense should be credited here, this is good to see from Surtain as many have had concerns with his ability to tackle in the past. It might’ve been the only weak spot in his game as a rookie.

Surtain matched Metcalf from an athleticism standpoint

In coverage, the battle between Surtain and Metcalf was fierce with both players having their moments but Surtain showed why he is so highly thought of.

Specifically, matching up with such an explosive player, this was a good test of his speed and there didn’t seem to be any issues there. Comfortable as ever, Surtain was step for step with Metcalf down the field the entire night, and as a result, every play to Metcalf had to be close to the line.

Being able to trust your speed as a cornerback is massive. Not just because slower cornerbacks get beat a lot deep but because they are afraid to be beat deep, often overcompensating for it. Metcalf for example, feasts against cornerbacks like this as his vertical speed opens up the rest of his game.

Metcalf managed to beat Surtain for his biggest play of the game by using that vertical threat.

Even for how much Surtain can trust his athleticism, running a 4.42 40-yard dash at his college pro day, he was susceptible to Metcalf’s ability to sell the deep route, ultimately giving up a 15-yard curl.

Being such a focal point to Metcalf’s style of play, later in the game, Metcalf faked the vertical route again in a very similar fashion but this time Surtain did not bite, ultimately getting the pass break up on an out-breaking route.

Did we neglect to mention that Patrick Surtain II is a unicorn?

A common negative to being a 6-foot-2 cornerback, like Surtain, is that they usually aren’t as quick as desired. Playing in and covering space, quickness is obviously a trait needed at the position, and often the drawback to larger cornerbacks.

However, this is an area Surtain continued to show where he’s unique. With great technique and polish, Surtain is able to put himself in the correct positions, and, as a result, lacking quickness is rarely if ever an issue for him.

After the game, it wasn’t just analysts and fans singing his praise but former players took to social media to let the world know how good of a young player Surtain is as well. Players like Darius Slay, Asante Samuel Sr., Stephon Gillmore, and Richard Sherman all had great things to say about the young Broncos’ cornerback.

Of course, playing against another star player like Metcalf, Surtain did not win every rep, but he did do as good of a job anyone could have asked for. All things considered, Metcalf was very limited in his production.

At the end of the day, Surtain continued to look like the star player fans of the team talked him up to be this entire offseason and the Broncos should be grateful to have him.

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