Before Saturday night, Taylor Heinicke was best known for his exploits at Old Dominion and his ability to celebrate an XFL victory.
This is no longer the case.
Heinicke put in a valiant effort on Saturday night in a 31-23 loss to Tampa Bay, completing 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and created a surprisingly effective offense for Washington in the second half of this season. which ended as a one-score game.
“He took advantage of [the opportunity], did a great job for us, ”said Washington coach Ron Rivera. We were really excited to give him this opportunity today. ”
Without Heinicke, it’s fair to wonder if Washington would have had anything more than a puncher’s chance against Tampa Bay. Washington’s generally strong defense struggled to take on Tom Brady and forced a total of just three kicks from 12 possessions, giving up 31 points in a game that ended up being a higher-than-expected scoring affair. . That left Heinicke as the face of Washington’s best chance at victory, and he put on a performance that Rivera called “brave.”
Heinicke delivered beyond expectations, leading two touchdowns in the second half and one that ended in a basket to keep Washington at striking distance until the very end. It wasn’t until Tampa Bay belatedly stepped up the pressure that Heinicke struggled, overcoming an early interception to put together a game that had those watching to light up Twitter with inspirational and awe-inspiring reactions.
Heinicke was calm under the pressure, surveying the pitch and hitting targets at a variety of depths and locations. Washington’s offense has grown from a sleepy unit to one with the potential to go down the field and score anytime, all thanks to Heinicke’s calm and delivery.
“He played a lot. He had a lot of poise, ”Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said of Heinicke after the game.
Heinicke’s best play didn’t come from his arm but his legs, when he escaped a collapsing pocket, rolled left and sprinted to the front pylon, diving down and reaching full extension while reaching the ball for the foam airplane indicator. Heinicke hit the pylon with the ball, crossing the goal line for a touchdown where teammate Chase Young pointed at Heinicke’s nameplate and gestured towards the camera with a clear message: Remember that name. After the game, Heinicke said that after the dive he played through a separate AC joint which later saw him briefly leave the game after taking a hit, but revert to the offensive drive that followed.
“They respect the guys who go out there and play hard and give their all,” Rivera said. “It’s easy to get behind a guy like that. And that’s really what happened, these guys supported Taylor. They rallied around him and they clashed. They really did. I am really proud of this group of men. ”
Heinicke’s future didn’t seem to be in football after the brutal XFL fold, but when Washington needed it, he called on Heinicke. Former Old Dominion and St. Louis BattleHawks passer delivered, potentially creating new opportunities for himself somewhere in the NFL.
His next destination remains to be determined, but overnight he was Washington’s quarterback and a playoff starter. And Heinicke delivered, even when defeated.