Quarterback Brett Rypien leads Denver Broncos to win over New York Jets in first start
Turned out, at least for a much-needed win on an October Thursday night, the ninth time was the charm for the Denver Broncos.
Brett Rypien, the ninth quarterback to start a game for the Broncos since the start of the 2017 season and the same guy who spent all of last season and most of the first part of this one on the team’s practice squad, was the guy who could do just enough to get Denver its first victory of the season.
Rypien looked like a prodigy at times and every bit a quarterback making his first NFL start in other moments as the Broncos won 37-28 Thursday night in MetLife Stadium to move to 1-3.
“Well, it was up and down,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “Obviously, I thought there was some good things. We hit some big plays, which is always important. Throwing three interceptions, you’re not going to win many times in this league, but we found a way to win tonight in spite of that.”
Rypien, who was told by Fangio on Monday night he was going to start the game three days later, finished 19-of-31 passing for 242 yards to go with two touchdowns and the three interceptions, with two of the picks coming on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter and one of those returned for a touchdown by Pierre Desir with 10:45 remaining in the game.
“It was definitely a long week, it felt like it for sure, even though it was a short week,” Rypien said. “But it was great to get out there … I’m really proud of the guys for fighting through all of the adversity to get the win.”
And while Desir’s pick-six was easily Rypien’s worst decision in the game, and he took an intentional grounding penalty in the final minutes that came perilously close to pushing kicker Brandon McManus out of range on the field goal that gave the Broncos the lead for good, Rypien earned good marks overall for his night’s work. In addition to the win, he also managed one of the most difficult tasks for the Broncos this season: He avoided a sack in an offense that had allowed 13 sacks in the past two games and did not surrender one to the Jets on Thursday night.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying on the Jets’ part, however, as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams clearly tried to rattle Rypien early and often with a variety of blitzes. The Jets also crossed the line at times with six personal fouls in the game, including several of those on hits on Rypien and two in the final seconds of the game.
A visibly angry Fangio ushered his team off the field following the final play — a kneel-down by Rypien — and it appeared Fangio and Jets coach Adam Gase did not shake hands. Fangio and Gase previously worked together on the Chicago Bears’ coaching staff.
“Well, there just was a couple personal fouls there at the end, and our sideline was getting pissed off about it,” Fangio said. “And I just wanted to avoid any confrontation at the end of the game and having it get ugly there. So, I tried to get our guys to leave quickly, just to avoid anything happening there. I thought it was the prudent thing to do.”
“They definitely did take a couple of late shots … and that’s to our benefit,” Rypien said.
Rypien was the third quarterback to start in the Broncos’ four games this season, as Drew Lock suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder in the Week 2 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jeff Driskel struggled in the Week 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Broncos’ coaches, including Fangio and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, had liked how Rypien had handled himself, especially in how quickly he delivered the ball, in the Broncos’ last possession against the Buccaneers. The Broncos also had plenty of their own intel, given Rypien had arrived as an undrafted rookie just after the 2019 draft and the coaches have seen him in two training camps.
“I think first and foremost, we got the win, that was the goal coming into tonight,” Rypien said. “That’s what I wanted to do. That feels really good … I’m thinking about we got the win tonight, and I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
The biggest change for the Broncos, who entered the game 30th in the NFL in scoring and 29th in total offense, was Rypien pushed the ball down the field early in the game. He hit a 48-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the second quarter — Jeudy jumped and snatched the ball away from Desir — and hit Tim Patrick on a 40-yarder later in the quarter.
According to NextGen Stats, those two completions put Rypien on a short list with Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as quarterbacks with two completions this season of at least 40 air yards.
Rypien hit nine of his first 11 passes for 141 yards, and by the end of the third quarter, he was 15-of-21 for 187 yards with two touchdowns.
Things unraveled some for Rypien when the Jets intercepted him in back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter to turn a 27-18 Broncos lead into a 28-27 Jets lead with just over six minutes to play.
But Rypien, helped by a face mask call on Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams’ sack on a third-and-6 play, guided a field goal drive that included a 31-yard pass to Patrick to give the Broncos a 30-28 lead. The coverage on the play, Rypien said, was the same as the coverage the Jets played on Desir’s pick-six.
“And we were able to get Tim up the sideline there,” Rypien said.
The Broncos’ final score came on a 48-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon with 1:48 to play.
With Lock expected to miss at least one more game — at New England on Oct. 11 — his earliest return could be Oct. 18 against Miami. However, Fangio has said since it is Lock’s throwing shoulder that is injured, and Lock will not return to the lineup if there is any doubt about the injury.
The Broncos also signed veteran quarterback Blake Bortles last week. And while Fangio wouldn’t commit to Rypien getting the start against the Patriots, the win Thursday certainly helps the cause.
“I mean, yeah, we have some extra days here to think about it,” Fangio said. “[We’ll] take a look at the tape thoroughly, analyze it and go with what we think is best.”