Brock Purdy, and Tyler Huntley, were backup quarterbacks before Sunday. Huntley’s Ravens teammates called him “Snoop” Because of his similarity to Snoop Dogg. Purdy was drafted in April with the 262nd selection. “Mr. Irrelevant.”

There’s more.

Huntley replaced Lamar Jackson, who injured his knee, and led Baltimore to a come-from-behind 10-9 victory against Denver, securing the win with a 2-yard touchdown run on the game’s final drive.

Purdy replaced Jimmy Garoppolo, who broke his foot on the 49ers’ opening drive, and powered San Francisco to a 33-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Both of these unlikely heroes are crucial to their playoff-bound team, joining a group of backup quarterbacks who have helped their teams stay afloat in the face of losing their starters. Up to this point, 22 quarterbacks that were not the first-string passers at opening day have started N.F.L. Pro Football Reference. That’s the most through the first 13 weeks of a season since 2007, which saw the same number of backups starting.

In Dallas: Cooper Rush was 4-1 after Dak Prescott broke his thumb in Week 1. In Washington: Taylor Heinicke has gone 5-1-1 since Carson Wentz hurt his finger. This second-teamer emergence confirms what Joe Gibbs, Hall of Fame Coach, once said: “The second most important person on the team is the backup quarterback.”

In an era where pass rush is increasing, backup quarterbacks have been called into action and starting quarterbacks are more often required to move out of the pocket to make plays. A 17-game season is a tough one for the most crucial player on a football team.

In In a flash, a backup becomes the center of an offense. What are the attributes that make a player ready for such a whirlwind? Skills that can easily be improved include the ability to analyze 17 opposing teams’ defensive tendencies. There are also intangibles like the ability to inspire teammates and the poise and leadership that cannot be taught. Perhaps most importantly, backups need to keep their egos in check for weeks, seasons or even years and suddenly turn on the confidence to take over at a moment’s notice.

Jets Coach Robert Saleh, who has called on backups Mike White and Joe Flacco this season to keep the team in playoff contention, said the difference in talent among 98 percent of the N.F.L.’s players is negligible. Eliminate the elite tier of players — the Aaron Donalds and Aaron Rodgerses of the world — and “the difference between player A and player Z” He has the opportunity to give them the field.

“You’re looking for guys who feel great about stepping on the field and not skipping a beat when their time comes.”

There’s little in the course of a season that prepares a backup for those moments. Before Sunday, Purdy said he spent most of a given week in the film room or running the 49ers’ scout team — mimicking the offense of the team’s next opponent. There were few repetitions of the starting offense’s offense.

Instead Purdy met Brian Griese after every practice and went through every play.

“I’m not running those plays live, 11-on-11,” Purdy stated. However, in a game “I just visualize what I’ve been doing at practice and rolling, it’s live, I’m going to get hit, there’s going to be contact going on, but I just get to go out there and just be efficient and do my job.”

As their value to their teams rises, so too do backups’ salaries. Huntley, who was not drafted from Utah in 2020 is now playing for the Ravens with a 1-year contract for $895,000. Huntley earned the deal by replacing Jackson, who was injured for four games last year. (Jackson is expected to be back this year with a sprained posteriorcruciate ligament. Huntley will likely start Sunday’s game against the Steelers.

Purdy has just completed the first year of a 4-year rookie contract, which is worth $3.7million or $934,000 annually.

Both are at the bottom of the payscale for backups. Chris Cabott, an agent for Rush and Heinicke said that this market is growing. “As more of these quarterbacks are getting opportunities, and the salary cap continues to grow, we are close, maybe months away from an eight-figure salary for some backups,” Cabott spoke.

Aside from Garoppolo, who signed a base deal of $6.5 million before the season to play behind Trey Lance, the three best-paid backups in the league are Miami’s Teddy Bridgewater ($6.5 million annually), Buffalo’s Case Keenum ($6 million) and the Giants’ Tyrod Taylor ($5.5 million). They have played together for nearly 30 years and won 88 games as starters.

Bridgewater led Minnesota to the 2015 playoffs and was a Pro Bowler. In 2017 saw Keenum lead the Vikings to N.F.C. title game. Taylor was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015. In 2017, Taylor led the Bills to their first playoff spot in 18 years.

This year, other backups have also stood out. Without Rush’s early-season steady play, the Cowboys would not be 9-3, nor would Washington (7-5-1) still be in playoff contention without Heinicke. After Wentz was cleared, Commanders Coach Ron Rivera stated that Heinicke would continue to be the starter.

In the Seahawks’ Geno Smith, backup quarterbacks have their patron saint. Smith started his first two seasons in the league for the Jets; after an injury, he was relegated to the Jets’ bench for two seasons. Smith spent the next four seasons as a second-teamer, a highly-traveled player. Smith was a backup for Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Russell Wilson with the Seahawks.

Smith had a chance to prove that this off-season’s Seattle trade of Wilson to Denver was a good one.

“All three of them are Hall of Fame quarterbacks in my opinion,” Smith. “And being in the room with those guys and just learning football, being in different football systems, being around different coordinators, I was able to gain a ton of knowledge.”

It’s paid off. Smith is the league’s leader in completion percentage (72.7%) and his passer rating (108.7) is second only to Tua tagovailoa of Dolphins. He has thrown 22 touchdowns. The Seahawks (7-5) are one game behind San Francisco 49ers for first in the N.F.C. West.

As a result, Smith’s $3.5 million salary is likely to grow when his contract is up at the end of the season.

“I understand that there has been a gap, but I’ve never lost confidence in my ability or the things that I can do on the field,” He said. “I’m not star-struck or anything by this opportunity. I’ve been working my butt off.”

Kris Rhim Contributed reporting