Rypien comes back for a second chance Redskins' QB remembers '91 playoff loss to 49ers

January 07, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- When the Houston Oilers suffered that heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, nobody felt more empathy for the Oilers than Mark Rypien.

"I look at the Oilers' situation, and they'll wake up in the middle of the spring just as I probably did several times thinking about things," Rypien said yesterday.

The things Rypien thought about two years ago weren't about blowing a big lead the way the Oilers did, but about overcoming a lead.

It was almost exactly two years ago -- Jan. 12, 1991 -- that the

Washington Redskins, trailing the San Francisco 49ers 21-10 in the second half, got to the 49ers' 15-yard line three different times.

They didn't get a point out of those drives. Twice, Rypien was intercepted in the end zone. The third time, he misfired on a fourth-down pass in the end zone.

The 49ers' Michael Carter then intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 61 yards for the final touchdown in a 28-10 victory.

Rypien went on to win Super Bowl MVP honors the next season and struggled through much of this season, but one thing he hasn't done since then is play the 49ers.

He gets another chance to play against them Saturday in a second-round playoff game in virtually the same circumstances.

Two years ago, the Redskins won a playoff game on the road -- at Philadelphia instead of Minnesota -- to earn a trip to San Francisco.

Just like last time, the 49ers are coming in with a 14-2 record with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Just like last time, the Redskins need a good game from Rypien if they're to have a chance for an upset. They didn't get it last time. Although he passed for 361 yards and a touchdown, those two interceptions in the end zone ended the chances of a comeback.

"I remember them vividly," he said. "The first one was a third-and-six at their 6-yard line [actually third-and-seven], and it was just a rollout, and we had Gary [Clark] on a pivot route and Art [Monk] to the corner. Art was the inside guy on the slot. I rolled out and we had it. We probably hit that three or four times, but for whatever reason I didn't put it in the corner of the end zone. I forgot the safety who came underneath and made the interception."

On the second one, (first-and-10 at the 15), he was told to watch for Ricky Sanders in the slot.

"So, you take a real good look and all of a sudden, everyone's looking at the same thing. Those were two crucial mistakes at the same time. There are some tough memories there. I'm excited to basically get a bad taste out of my mouth. You make two turnovers inside the 15-yard line and you're not going to win many games. I've looked forward to this game for two years," he said.

Going through that frustration may have spurred Rypien on to his success last season.

"I bounced back from that and used that as maybe a crutch. I used it as a learning tool more than anything else," he said.

It also even has helped Rypien survive the tough times this season and all the criticism that has gone with it.

"When I'm not playing well, it's never gotten me down," he said.

Coach Joe Gibbs has remained in Rypien's corner throughout the season.

"Sometimes, people grow in your eyes rather than sink. I've seen him fight through some tough things this year whereas last year, it was all pretty much downhill," Gibbs said.

Gibbs said he always liked what he saw in Rypien's eyes in the tough times.

"Even sometimes when it was going real poorly for us, what I saw in Ryp's eyes was a competitiveness and a fire and a want to," he said.

The odds are against the Redskins, but Rypien hasn't been beaten down by this year. He's eager for the challenge.

"Sometimes, when you play sports and even if it's just going out and playing golf with some friends, you like to play against people who are better than you just for the fact to see how you match up," Rypien said. "There's not going to be a lot of people who are going to give us much of a chance, but we'll see what we got. We're going to have to play our absolutely best to play an extremely talented football team. I'd like to play well against them."

NOTES: DT Eric Williams practiced yesterday and is likely to be activated from the injured reserve list for the 49ers game. But Williams, who was sidelined by a torn abdominal muscle, isn't LTC likely to start. . . . CB Darrell Green was one of eight players who wasn't able to practice on his bruised heel. The Redskins still don't know his status for the game. . . . Gibbs is having light practices because the team has so many injured players.

Rypien's playoff stats

E9 A game-by-game look at Mark Rypien in the postseason:

Yr. .. Opp. .. Res. ... ... Com. .. Att. ... Yds. ... TD ... INT

'91 .. Phil. .. W, 20-6 ... 15 .... 31 ..... 206 ..... 2 .... 1

'91 .. S.F. ... L, 28-10... 27 .... 48 ..... 361 ..... 1 .... 3

'92 .. Atl. ... W, 24-7 ... 14 .... 28 ..... 170 ..... 0 .... 1

'92 .. Det. ... W, 41-10... 12 .... 17 ..... 228 ..... 2 .... 0

'92 .. Buf. ... W, 37-24... 18 .... 33 ..... 292 ..... 2 .... 1

'93 .. Minn. .. W, 24-7 ... 16 .... 24 ..... 172 ..... 1 .... 1

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