Before Saturday night, Taylor Heinicke was best known for his performance at the Old Dominion and his ability to celebrate an XFL win.
That is no longer the case.
Heinicke gave a valiant effort rolled into one on Saturday night 31-23 Wild card loss to Tampa Bay, 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and a surprisingly efficient Washington offense in the second half of a one-score game.
“He took advantage of it [the opportunity]”said Washington coach Ron Rivera.” We were really excited to give him his chance today. “
Without Heinicke, one might wonder if Washington would have had more than a puncher’s chance against Tampa Bay. Washington’s normally strong defense struggled to pursue Tom Brady, forcing a total of only three punts on 12 possessions. In a game that ended a matter with a higher than expected score, 31 points were awarded. Heinicke was thus the face of Washington’s best chance of winning, and he put together a performance that Rivera described as “brave”.
Heinicke delivered beyond expectations, leading two touchdown runs in the second half and another that ended with a field goal to keep Washington within striking distance until the end. It wasn’t until Tampa Bay put pressure on it late that Heinicke got into trouble and overcame early interception to put together a game that saw viewers lit Twitter with reactions of inspiration and wonder.
Heinicke was calm under pressure, surveyed the field and hit targets at different depths and in different locations. Thanks to Heinicke’s serenity and performance, Washington’s offense shifted from a sleepy unit to one that had the potential to field and score anytime.
“He played a lot of games. He had a lot of balance,” said Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians of Heinicke after the game.
Heinicke’s best game came off his legs, not his arm, as he escaped from a collapsing pocket, rolled left and sprinted to the front pylon, diving, and reaching a full stretch while stretching the ball for the foam indicator. Heinicke hit the pylon with the ball and crossed the goal line for a touchdown, in which teammate Chase Young pointed to Heinicke’s nameplate and pointed to the camera with a clear message: Remember that name. After the game, Heinicke said after the dive that he had played through a disconnected AC joint that later released him from the game shortly after a hit, but returned on the next offensive drive.
“They respect people who go out there and play hard and give it their all,” said Rivera. “It’s easy to get behind a guy like that. And that’s exactly what happened, these guys got behind Taylor. They gathered around him and got their asses off. They really did it. I’m really proud of this group of men. “
Heinicke’s future didn’t seem to be in football after the XFL’s sudden collapse, but when Washington was in need, Heinicke called on it. Former Old Dominion and St. Louis BattleHawks passer-by provided and possibly opened up new opportunities for himself somewhere in the NFL.
His next goal is yet to be set, but for one night he was Washington’s quarterback and a playoff starter. And Heinicke also delivered in the event of defeat.