ENGLEWOOD -- Brett Rypien made his first impression last.
Unless Drew Lock's strained rotator cuff heals quickly -- and it is a longshot that it does -- Rypien will start his second consecutive game next Sunday at New England.
Roller-coaster Rypien blended memorable throws with cringe-worthy mistakes Thursday, but showed toughness and resolve in helping the Broncos claim their first victory of the season.
"I thought Brett’s play was good, in light of everything. I was surprised by the interceptions," said Fangio of Rypien, who completed 19 of 31 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns and three picks. "But I also liked some of the throws he made (downfield)."
Rypien, 24, took multiple shots to the head and upper body, but was not sacked. After two brutal turnovers, he executed the game-winning drive, becoming only the fifth Broncos quarterback to post a fourth-quarter comeback in his first start.
As for Lock, Fangio deemed his chance at playing at "50-50." This is encouraging, but difficult based on the timetable and where Lock stands in his healing.
He hasn't thrown a football since the Steelers' Bud Dupree smashed him to the turf on a first-quarter sack 13 days ago. He would need to microwave his recovery, beginning on Tuesday, to be cleared for the vicious road test against the Patriots.
"He’s thrown some light balls. I just need to see a healthy and confident quarterback. I’m not gonna put him out there unless he’s healthy," said Fangio.
Lock, who is 4-3 as a starter, must be able to protect himself. He has proven adept at avoiding sacks in his career -- seven in seven games -- but has suffered injuries to his thumb and shoulder when extending plays, leading to absences. The typical recovery time for this injury for Major League pitchers is one month, which also serves as a more realistic target for Lock, in my opinion.
Lock is attempting to return in three weeks, which is why the Broncos will keep four quarterbacks -- the others are Rypien, Jeff Driskel, Blake Bortles -- until clarity emerges with the former Missouri star.
While the mistakes were awful, Rypien made terrific plays, showing no fear as he drove the ball down field in his starting debut. He completed a 48-yard touchdown to rookie Jerry Jeudy -- the first of the receiver's career -- and targeted veteran Tim Patrick seven times, leading to six catches for a career-high 114 yards.
"I was very impressed," Patrick said of Rypien. "My 'go' ball, it was just right there. I tracked it late and it just fell in my lap. It was low-key impossible to drop. Even on my touchdown, I could've have given the guy much more, but he found a way to fit it in. I thank him for that because I got my second touchdown."
The Broncos showed offensive diversity, while nearly matching their point total in their first three games combined (37 on Thursday, 45 prior). Melvin Gordon also eclipsed 100 yards on the ground for the first time in Denver. Phillip Lindsay will play against New England, adding another weapon in the backfield. He has been sidelined since the second half of the opener because of a turf toe injury.
"I didn't feel comfortable playing him without any real practice. I didn't think it would be the fair thing," Fangio said.
While Lindsay should provide a boost, the Broncos are bracing for the absences of promising tight end Noah Fant (ankle) and emerging rookie receiver K.J. Hamler (hamstring). Both could miss time, according to Fangio, though neither injury is considered serious.
Fant hurt his ankle in the second half, and Hamler has been bothered by a hamstring issue since February, but the latest issue is in a new spot.
Defensively, the Broncos dropped their fangs against the Jets, with Fangio blitzing more than he ever has as Denver's boss. It led to six sacks, among them 2.5 from outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and a pair from inside linebacker Josey Jewell.
The secondary also improved with the appearance of De'Vante Bausby. He replaced struggling rookie Essang Bassey, and shined. The plan is to keep Bausby in the lineup, which allows Fangio the freedom to use Bryce Callahan in the slot, where he excels.
While it was hoped starting corner A.J. Bouye would return this week, that seems unlikely. He is less than "50-50" to play as he recovers from a shoulder injury sustained in the first half of the season opener, Fangio admitted.
The Broncos plan to add former first-round pick Sylvester Williams to their practice squad, per source, after his Friday tryout. Williams was a starting nose tackle for the Super Bowl 50 champion team, and could add depth and experience to a depleted defensive line. ...
Fangio insisted there was no ill-will between he and Jets coach Adam Gase after Thursday's ugly ending. After the Jets smashed Rypien on the Broncos' final two offensive plays, the sides began chirping. Fangio decided to eschew the postgame handshake to avoid "a situation that would be an embarrassment for the team and the league." He and Gase exchanged texts and spoke on Friday, and Fangio said "We are in great shape." ...
The expectation is that multiple Jets will be fined for helmet-to-helmet hits in Thursday's game. ...
Demar Dotson helped fortify the offensive line with his solid play at right tackle. Fangio believes he will only get better after knocking the rust off against the Jets. ...
It’s a season of big sports events airing this fall on Denver7. Check out our upcoming schedule:
- Oct. 2: NBA Finals Game 2 on Denver7
- Oct. 4: NBA Finals Game 3 on Denver7
- Oct. 6: NBA Finals Game 4 on Denver7
- Oct. 9: NBA Finals Game 5 on Denver7
- Oct. 11: NBA Finals Game 6 on Denver7
- Oct. 13: NBA Finals Game 7 on Denver7