Face it, the Broncos' brass didn’t know Brett Rypien would be this competitive, this early.
If they did, they wouldn’t have signed Jeff Driskel to a two-year, $5 million contact in March to become Drew Lock’s No. 2 quarterback. If they did, they wouldn’t have signed former Jacksonville Jaguars starting QB Blake Bortles last week.
With the Broncos’ season unraveling and then falling behind quickly to Sam Darnold and the New York Jets on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium, Rypien was hardly perfect while throwing three interceptions, but he did give his team a spark by also throwing two touchdown passes. Rypien's resilient performance and the strong, clutch leg of Brandon McManus -- who made field goals of 40, 54 and 53 yards -- gave the Broncos a 37-28 victory.
“First and foremost we got the win,'' Rypien said about his performance. "That was the goal coming into tonight. That’s what I wanted to do. That feels real good.''
Rypien finished his first NFL start by completing 19 of 31 for 242 yards, touchdown passes to Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, but also the three interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
“Well it was up and down,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said of Rypien's performance. "I thought there were some good things. We hit some big plays which is always important. But 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, which I think is a reflection of the fight that we have on this team and these players and the commitment they have to each other that we’ll overcome minus-3 (in turnovers) and a pick 6 and just an overall great performance by the team and I thought McManus had a helluva night kicking the ball.”
It ended ugly as Jets coach Adam Gase inexplicably took his two final timeouts even though there was less than a minute remaining, his team was down two scores and the Broncos were taking a knee.
But it was also surprising that Fangio twice put Rypien in harm's way by having him try to throw off the final 13 seconds (which is not possible) on fourth down when everyone in football knows Jets' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is notorious for cheap shots. See the Bountygate scandal.
Even if the Jets won the turnover battle, they beat themselves with three roughing the passer penalties, a game-turning face mask infraction that negated a quarterback sack and unnecessary roughness flag.
“They did definitely take a couple late shots and got the face mask there on the last one and that was to our benefit,’’ Rypien said.
After the Jets put two big hits on Rypien in the final seconds, Fangio ran off the field trying to direct his players to the locker room rather than go through with the traditional postgame handshake with Gase.
“There were a couple personal fouls there at the end and our sideline was getting (ticked) 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.”
The Broncos finished off what was a thrilling battle of winless teams thanks to a fourth down sack by Bradley Chubb against Darnold at the 2-minute warning, followed by a clinching 43-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon on the other side of the 2-minute break.
The Broncos are winless no more. They are 1-3 and have the weekend off before getting back to work Monday for a game at New England next Sunday. The Jets are 0-4 and officially the worst team in the NFL.
Rypien was playing well until he was picked off for a second time by Pierre Desire, who returned this one 35 yards for a touchdown with 10:45 remaining in the fourth quarter to bring the Jets within, 27-25. Another interception thrown by Rypien set up another field goal by the Jets' Sam Ficken and the Broncos fell behind, 28-27.
Rypien got a few breaks – he benefitted from a roughing the passer penalty on each of his first two scoring drives, and a facemask penalty that kept alive his go-ahead field goal drive late in the fourth quarter – but he doesn’t have to apologize. In his first NFL game off the bench on Sunday against Tampa Bay, he started 8 of 8. In his first NFL start Thursday, he began 6 of 6 for 81 yards.
He got some help rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy on one pass. Jeudy ran a go route and had to wait as Rypien underthrew him. But Jeudy reached over Desir, snagged it and backpedaled into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown.
It was the first touchdown pass of Rypien’s career and first TD catch for Jeudy. Rypien was undrafted last year out of Boise State. Jeudy was the No. 15 overall pick out of Alabama in May.
After the Jets closed to 17-16 early in the third quarter, Rypien answered with an impressive 13-play drive that mixed short completions with nice runs by Gordon. The drive ended with Rypien drilling a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tim Patrick off a third-and-6 play.
Patrick had six catches for a game-high 113 yards and a score.
"I think Tim's a quality NFL receiver,'' Fangio said. "He's got size. He's big, tough, competitive at the ball. Good runner with the ball after the catch. I'm not surprised with Tim. I think he's a quality NFL receiver that I'm really glad that we have."
A long punt return by Diontae Spencer set up a 54-yard field goal by Brandon McManus early in the fourth quarter to extend the Broncos lead to 27-16. The Jets answered with their own 54-yard field goal from Sam Ficken to close to within, 27-19 with 11:44 left.
Then came Desir's pick six to make it, 27-25. The Broncos stopped the 2-point conversion attempt as Darnold found no one open on a scramble right.
Rypien’s first bad pass was baffling. He scrambled right early in the second quarter and was near the sideline when he appeared to throw it away. Except he didn’t throw it far enough away. Desir, who also was picked on throughout the game, made a redemptive play by diving to catch the pick while dragging his feet inbounds.
"That should never happen,'' Rypien said.
The Jets missed a field goal but Broncos' special teamer Joe Jones was flagged for hitting the long snapper. The Jets got to keep the ball and were able to drive closer before Ficken was able to connect on a 26-yard field goal to tie the game.
Rypien redeemed himself on his next series by quickly completing a 40-yard pass to Patrick, who beat Desire down field. Rypien then hit tight end Noah Fant for 11 yards and DaeSean Hamilton for 9, before giving way to Driskel, who came in to run a Taysom Hill-like read-option keeper. Driskel gained 9 yards, plus drew a late-hit penalty to set up first-and-goal.
Rypien came back in and handed off twice to Gordon, who after high-flying near score, got in on his next carry. The Broncos were up 17-10 with 1:37 left in the half.
Darnold responded by directing a field goal drive in the final seconds of the first half.
It looked bleak early for the Broncos. They were getting little pass rush on Darnold. When they did, Darnold spun out of a sack from blitzing linebacker Alexander Johnson, then juked away from safety Justin Simmons’ open-field tackle attempt on his way to a 47-yard touchdown. The Jets were up 7-0.
Rypien led the Broncos on his first series, using a roughing the passer and pass interference penalty, plus a nice, 21-yard completion to Patrick to set up a 40-yard McManus field goal that drew the Broncos to within, 7-3.
Darnold was again moving the ball on his second series, but he held on to the ball too long on first down at the Broncos’ 42. This time he spun right into Johnson, who didn’t just sack Darnold, he slammed the quarterback down on his right throwing shoulder. Darnold missed the rest of the series as backup Joe Flacco came in and was victimized by offensive penalties.
Rypien got a questionable roughing the passer penalty to convert a third down on his second drive, then threw it deep enough for Jeudy who made a great play for the lead.
Gordon struggled before breaking off his game-clinching long touchdown run and finished with 107 yards on 23 carries as Phillip Lindsay missed his third consecutive game with turf toe.
Fant was carted off in the third quarter with a knee injury. But the early diagnosis was its not as bad as it looked. ...
Bradley Chubb registered 2.5 sacks, his first sacks since suffering an ACL tear in his left knee in game 4 of last season. ...
Inside linebacker Josey Jewell was outstanding, registering 2.0 sacks and a team-high 10 tackles. He was also superb in pass coverage.
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