San Francisco - When Joe Montana threw his memorable playoff touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in 1982 to vault the San Francisco 49ers into their first Super Bowl, Mark Rypien was still a senior in high school.
"I think everyone remembers that, the throw to Dwight Clark in the end zone," Rypien said. "You remember all the games he's played in. That's when he's risen to the top -- when the pressure has been on."
Rypien certainly will remember the game Montana plays today against the Washington Redskins at Candlestick Park, because he'll be the opposing quarterback.
This is a matchup of the veteran quarterback and the player still trying to make a name for himself.
Rypien, 27, will be playing in just his 24th game. Montana, 34, will be playing in his 153rd. He's been in almost as many playoff games (17) as Rypien has regular-season games.
Rypien still is trying to establish himself as a first-rate quarterback and keep Stan Humphries on the bench. Montana already has proved he's the best of his time.
Montana will make almost as much money ($250,000) for playing this game as Rypien will for the whole season ($275,000).
Just stepping on the same field with Montana is exciting for Rypien.
"It's my first chance to get to play against San Francisco. He's [Montana] one of the greatest to ever play the game. It's just going to be a thrill to go out there and play against those guys, especially at their place," Rypien said.
Coach Joe Gibbs said: "For a guy like Mark, these are the days you kind of live for and you play for. He's going to be compared to the guy across the field."
For Montana, it's probably just another game for a championship team that is struggling to get in sync.
But, after one game this year, Rypien has better statistics.
PD Rypien's quarterback rating is 112.3 after he completed 17 of 30
passes for 240 yards in a 31-0 rout of the Phoenix Cardinals last week.
Montana's rating is 70.9 after a 26-for-43 performance for 210 yards in a 13-12 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
MA "I didn't play worth a damn," Montana said after the game Mon
day night. "The first half, we were making mistakes and killing ourselves. We finally settled down, but we never played to our capabilities. I know I didn't."
Montana didn't talk to reporters the rest of the week, but, then, talking about football never has been his forte. He does his talking on the field.
He doesn't seem particularly comfortable in the spotlight, and, as he's become more famous, he's had to cope with some troubling incidents.
His car has been trashed and his outdoor Christmas lights broken, and someone fired a pellet gun at his home on a hilltop in Redwood City, Calif. Two men even invaded the home when Montana and his wife were attending a wedding.
The Montanas have purchased another home in exclusive area of San Francisco with more security.
Montana also could use a bit more security on the field. His offensive line was thrown off by holdouts Guy McIntyre and Jesse Sapolu, and it allowed six sacks in the opener.
Coach George Seifert is even making it sound as if the Redskins are a real test for his team.
"People immediately evaluate your motives when you make statements like I'm about to make. In watching the film of the Redskins, they're probably the most in-sync team that I've seen in the last couple of years. They might be .... the best team we've faced in the last couple of years," he said.
Seifert seemed to be trying to steal a page from Gibbs, who makes every foe sound as if it's the 49ers.
Gibbs responded: "We know who the world champions are. There's not a football fan in America who doesn't know there's a difference between the two teams."
One of the biggest differences, of course, is at quarterback, although Seifert also tossed a few bouquets Rypien's way.
"I think there are a number of people in football who think he's going to be one of the outstanding quarterbacks in the league," he said.
Maybe. But it's still too early to tell. Rypien has quarterbacked only one victory over a winning team, 16-14 over the Saints last year.
The Redskins have just four victories over winning teams in the past two seasons. The other three were with Doug Williams at quarterback.
Even Gibbs wonders how Rypien will handle this test.
"I don't have the answer to that. Mark is going to have to answer that Sunday. It's a big game for him and a big game for us," Gibbs said.