The Broncos’ stock report after their 11-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday:
The Broncos’ defensive coordinator pressed all the right buttons in his unit’s domination of the 49ers. Save for one outlier touchdown drive and a 51-yard field goal that was a result of the field position battle, the defense was flawless. While Evero has lots of veteran playmakers, he’s also got his younger players (safety Caden Sterns subbing for Justin Simmons, dime back P.J. Locke) playing at a high level.
Pat Surtain II
After an impactful rookie season featuring four interceptions, Surtain is making an early case as the best cornerback in the NFL. The second-year pro did not allow a reception on six targets. Per Next Gen Stats, that’s tied for the most targets without a reception allowed in a game since last year. PS2 also has the 4th-lowest passer rating allowed (59.8) since he debuted in 2021 (minimum 70 targets).
While the rest of the offense sputtered for much of the night against San Francisco, Sutton was again the unit’s rock. After going over the 100-yard mark last week versus Houston, the reliable receiver had eight catches for 97 yards in Week 3. His 291 total receiving yards rank fifth in the NFL, and he’s also tied for second with five “big” plays (catches over 20 yards). No. 14 is on a Pro Bowl pace.
In the Broncos’ season opener in Seattle, Waitman looked like an inexperienced punter who lacked the directional kicking ability of his predecessor Sam Martin. Does Waitman have more than just a big leg? Sunday proved he does. In the punt-fest, six of Waitman’s 10 punts were inside the 20, and two were inside the 10-yard line. He averaged 47.6 on those punts, consistently giving S.F. long fields.
The Broncos’ quarterback was 20 of 33 for 180 yards, with a 75.8 rating. Yes, he did finally snap out of his funk and lead the Broncos on the game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, a possession where he had a couple key passes and a third-down scramble for a first down that was critical. But the offense is averaging a paltry 13.66 points per game, third-worst in the NFL. No. 3 has to change that.
Broncos offensive line
The O-line took a step back against the 49ers. Wilson was sacked four times for 24 yards; Denver was pegged for two offensive hold penalties (one enforced). The running game showed flashes but never broke out. Quinn Meinerz was active, but did not play, and Billy Turner was sidelined again from his offseason knee scope, leaving Graham Glasgow and Cam Fleming to hold up the right side.
On a night where the Denver defense grabbed every headline, rookie outside linebacker Nik Bonitto made his NFL debut to very little fanfare. The Broncos’ top 2022 draft pick, selected in the second round out of Oklahoma, had one tackle in the nine defensive snaps he played. He also got four special teams snaps. Denver’s deep at OLB, but when will the rookie start to make his presence felt?
Fans are still waiting for the spark in the return game, and so far there’s been little. That’s not all Washington’s fault — Denver’s blocking on returns is still a work in progress. But the rookie returner also hasn’t been able to break any big plays with the daylight he has been given. Sunday, Washington had one punt return for nine yards and one kick return for 14 yards, a play that looked promising but fizzled.
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