Kiszla: Wearing Cinderella shoes, undrafted free agent Brett Rypien outplays Jets first-rounder Sam Darnold – The Denver Post

Brett Rypien wore his Cinderella shoes to his first NFL dance. And just before the clock struck midnight, an undrafted and unloved quarterback slipped out the Jersey swamplands with a victory the Broncos desperately needed.

It wasn’t always pretty. Rypien threw two touchdown passes in his first pro start, but also chucked three ugly interceptions. But in the end, Denver couldn’t have beaten the gosh-awful New York Jets 37-28 without him.

“Wow, this is what it’s like in the NFL every week,” Rypien said Thursday. “It’s a battle to get a win.”

I don’t know if John Elway has found his Elway. It remains to be seen if Drew Lock is a bona fide franchise quarterback.

But the Broncos have found Gary Kubiak 2.0.

“Winning cures more ills than penicillin,” beleaguered Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.

On this rainy night in Jersey, Rypien out-played Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, a first-round pick in 2018.

The Broncos were going to struggle to find the end zone, much less win a game, with Jeff Driskel, who looked like an imposter as an NFL starting quarterback. Driskel can run, but simply cannot handle the speed of the game. Quarterback is a high-stress job. The bright lights make Driskel sweat.

Rypien, at they very least, acts the part. He doesn’t get rattled in the pocket and is never gun shy about pulling the trigger, even after throwing a pick-6. Those attributes are going to earn him paychecks in the NFL for a decade. While the football gods did not bless Rypien with the raw skill of Lock, the first-round draft pick would be well advised to pick the brain of his undrafted teammate in Denver’s quarterback room.

A fine balance between taking what New York’s defense gave him and the chutzpah to exploit the Jets’ weakest links allowed Rypien to pick on Jets cornerback Pierre Desir, who gets lost more in coverage than Bo Peep’s sheep. Denver picked on Desir for two long throws in the first half, including a 48-yard touchdown pass to rookie Jerry Jeudy that gave the Broncos a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.

“I took it away from him,” said Jeudy, who should have gotten credit for both the first TD catch of his pro career and an interception break-up.

It was a play fit for a King. LeBron James noticed what Jeudy did all the way from the NBA bubble down in Florida and tweeted: JEUDY!!!!!! Moss’d

Getting compared to Hall of Famer Randy Moss by King James? Not. Too. Shabby.

“LeBron James?” asked Jeudy, incredulous. “LeBron James shouted me out? That’s next level.”

Yes, the winless Jets are so terrible that they are going to get our old friend Adam Gase fired as coach, perhaps before the weekend is over. The stats for Rypien were not awe-inspiring, from his modest 242 yards passing to his meager 67.6 quarterback rating.

And Rypien did almost fall apart and throw away the game with costly interceptions, the worst of which Desir took 35 yards to the end zone to steal the lead early in the fourth quarter.

“Throwing three interceptions, you’re not going to win many games in this league,” said Fangio, who sounds like he will be tempted to start Blake Bortles when the Broncos visit New England in Week 5 of the regular season.

But after Denver coughed up an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, trailing 28-27 with only 6 minutes, 33 seconds, between the Broncos and an 0-4 record, Rypien got his act together and led a game-winning drive. The big play was a 31-yard pass to Tim Patrick, that pushed them into position for a field goal by Brandon McManus.

In the 2018 raft, the quarterback Elway really liked was Darnold, who went No. 3 overall to the Jets. Unlike Darnold, who already has been labeled a bust at age 23, Rypien was nobody’s idea of a first-round draft pick out of Boise State.

With the Broncos looking to milk the final seconds off the clock, Melvin Gordon bounced out of a scrum in the middle of the line. Looking for the goal line, Rypien threw a block on Jets cornerback Lamar Jackson, springing Gordon for a 43-yard touchdown run.

“I don’t know if it was a great block,” Rypien said. But a man who neve knew if he’d ever get a chance to start an NFL game was going for the gusto:  “That’s just me trying to make a play for the team.”

On this night, this one crazy night for Rypien, no adversity made him fold, and nothing stopped him from hopping and skipping all the way to the Denver bench after Gordon’s game-clinching touchdown.

Dance, Cinderella, dance.

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