WASHINGTON -- Slingin' Mark Rypien doesn't play. Trust me, alliteration is everything in these matters. So, what do we do -- Marvelous Mark? Rollickin' Ryp?
I just know this: When a guy throws six TDs, even when it's against Atlanta, to tie Slingin' Sammy Baugh's club record, and he's got a team that's a great big, fat 10-0, it's time to reconsider the young man's work. Call in the poets while you're at it.
Six TDs? Sonny never did it and Kilmer never did it and Theismann never did it and Doug never did it and Eddie LeBaron never did it. Certainly, Stan Humphries never did it. And last season they were saying Sittin' Stan ought to be the quarterback instead of Rypien (Meltdown Mark? Razor Ryp?).
OK, Ryp's not flashy. He's not quick. He used to drop the ball a lot. And he isn't that clever with his passing. I never said he was Joe Montana, all right?
And if you saw him close up, you would never even think he was a quarterback, not when most of the breed look as if they just emerged whole right out of the surf. Rypien (Mighty Mark? Ragin' Ryp?) looks as if he just rolled out from under your car and told you something was wrong with your gungulator shaft.
So, how do you explain it? The Redskins' "weak link" -- great line, good running game, great receivers, solid-to-terrific defense, so-so quarterback -- goes for the six touchdowns and 442 yards and about as much excitement as this town can take in a 56-17, don't-wait-up-honey-the-highlights-are-still-on victory over the Falcons.
Part of the, uh, credit goes to Atlanta and its style of defense, which is to blitz on every play and hope the defensive backs can cover. Note to Jerry Glanville: Next time, leave tickets for a few more DBs.
"That's us," said DB Tim McKyer, who was often in the same area code as the receiver he was covering. "We come after you. We don't back down. That's how we play. We live by it, or, as you can see, we die by it."
And while they're dying, they leave the Redskins wide receivers so wide-open that Slingin' Sammy might have tossed five or six himself -- today. The Falcons' scheme, you see, had just a few flaws. You can't blitz against the Redskins, who protect any quarterback as if he were Michelangelo's David (no jokes here; Ryp is more agile than all statues). You can't cover their gifted wide receivers man-to-man. And Rypien's strength is throwing deep, and this time, he'd step back in the pocket and then flash right or left before heaving touchdown passes of 82, 64 and 61 yards.
Rypien's 442 yards were 4 short of another of Slingin' Sammy's records, but Rypien, who sat out the last nine minutes, refused coach Joe Gibbs' offer to return to the game. This is not surprising. Rypien, who threw for the six TDs and ran for another on a perfect bootleg play, gave it his usual aw-shucks best after the game, crediting his teammates. That's him.
"Everyone did their job," he said. His teammates, however, insisted on crediting him back, no matter what the folks on the talk shows say.
"There's so many people on Ryp's back," said wide receiver Gary Clark, who rode Rypien for four catches, three TDs and 203 yards. "They say he's not a very good quarterback, or he's an average quarterback. Look at his record [30-12].
"What more's it going to take to convince people he can play? I don't see any reason why he shouldn't go to Hawaii -- and as a starter, not something else."
Hawaii is, of course, where they play the Pro Bowl, and it's hardly far-fetched that Rypien (Movin' Mark? Rockin' Ryp?) would be there. Of more import, though, is Minneapolis, where the Super Bowl is going to be, and where the Redskins are thinking about being 18-0 when they arrive.
"It's fun to be winning and living in Washington, D.C., and the Maryland and Virginia area," Clark said. "People just seem happier when they go to work. They don't feel as much stress. The recession doesn't seem quite as bad. This town is amazing.
"I'm having a ball. I've never been 10-0, except maybe in sandlot and pee-wee ball."
Clark says he's starting to wear Redskins attire in the hope he'd be recognized. It's that kind of season here. And even the players are starting to concede that going unbeaten just might be a goal.
Only one team -- Dallas -- on the remaining schedule has a winning record. And, besides, when you play the Redskins, you're not allowed to use your best player (the Falcons were without their quarterback and cornerback Neon Deion Sanders). When a team does bring its star player -- Houston insisted on playing Warren Moon -- somehow the game-winning field goal gets knocked off course.
There was no need for luck yesterday. It was fish-in-a-barrel day, and Rypien (Maximum Mark? Rifle Ryp?) brought the gun. The Falcons had no chance against the Redskins, and every week it looks more and more like you can say as much about the entire league.