BRONCOS

The man who will be starting: Brett Rypien gets ready

Oct 21, 2022, 11:17 PM | Updated: Oct 22, 2022, 10:40 am
Brett Rypien...
(Photo by Andrew Mason / DenverFan.com)
(Photo by Andrew Mason / DenverFan.com)

NOTE: News broke Saturday morning that Brett Rypien will start in place of Russell Wilson.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Brett Rypien knows the drill of being a backup quarterback. Stay alert, absorb every last detail of the game plan and be ready to play — even without the practice snaps with the first team one would need.

In a normal week, that would mean perhaps getting “a couple of run plays.”

This week, it means splitting the first-team snaps with the injured Russell Wilson. After three days of sharing the workload, Rypien settled into his locker-room stall Friday. The game-plan work is done, and now he simply sat waiting for word, one way or another.

That word might not come until Sunday.

But aside from the extra snaps, it’s been like any other week for an understudy.

“Just trying to get ready to play,” Rypien said. “Taking the same approach that I always do, same preparation — really, nothing’s changed for me.

“Obviously, I’ve been getting more reps in practice. But we’ll see come Sunday.”

By Saturday, he learned the job was his.

***

IF RYPIEN STARTS, THE FOE IS FAMILIAR

Rypien’s first turn on the carousel came four weeks into the pandemic-altered 2020 season — against the same New York Jets the Broncos will host Sunday.

Now, the Jets have changed schemes and coaches since Rypien led the Broncos into an empty MetLife Stadium for that Thursday night game. Both teams entered with their win columns as vacant as the grandstands around them.

Denver won, 37-28. But it was an adventure getting there, reflected in the fact that just one of Denver’s 11 non-kneeldown drives ended in a punt.

“I learned a lot,” Rypien recalled. “I think the game itself was really up and down. Obviously, the fourth quarter was pretty crazy.”

It was a dizzying 15 minutes in which it appeared Rypien was about to fritter away the Broncos’ first win of the 2020 season — and then seized it back.

Denver led 27-16, then saw Sam Darnold and the Jets march 6 plays to a 54-yard Sam Ficken field goal. Then, with an 8-point lead, chaos ensued. The Jets intercepted two of Rypien’s next four passes. Pierre Desir returned one for a touchdown; the other set up another Ficken field goal.

Just like that, Rypien and the Broncos trailed. The Jets seemed to have his number. But after a drive-resuscitating face-mask infraction against Quinine Williams early on the subsequent series, Rypien settled down. On third-and-8 at the Denver 47-yard line, he capitalized on a clean pocket and fired a a strike to Tim Patrick behind Jets coverage.

Rypien took an intentional-grounding penalty 3 plays later, but Denver was already well in field-goal range. Brandon McManus hit a 53-yarder, and Denver never trailed again. Rypien even had a key block on Melvin Gordon’s game-clinching 43-yard touchdown run.

And all that doesn’t even include the cheap shots Rypien absorbed from Jets defenders as he tried to chew up time and throw passes away in the final seconds of the game.

It was — to say the least — eventful. It was also the NFL at full speed, which he hadn’t experienced to that point.

“That’s just ball, right? You play this game since you were a kid and you realizewhen you get back out there, everything’s obviously a little bit faster,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just football, and you’ve got good players on your side, too.

“You’ve just go to do your job the best you can and put some points on the board.”

Coincidentally enough, the Broncos did precisely that in Rypien’s lone start. Granted, it was against a team that surrendered at least 30 points nine times, a single-season total exceeded by just eight teams since 1940.

But considering that the Broncos have fewer 30-point games in their favor than anyone else in the AFC since 2016, guiding them to 37 points — even at the expense of a leaky defense — is notable.

Now, Rypien has the second chance that seemed so unlikely early last season, when he slipped back to the practice squad before returning to the 53-player roster.

“Obviously, this is what you dream of to do in the NFL,” Rypien said. “You want to play and you want to get opportunities. So, if it does happen, great. If not, I’ll be there supporting Russ, and supporting everybody else.”

***

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