Thursday, May 19, 2022

Taylor Heinicke earns first career win as a starter; Washington QB continues Cinderella story in the NFL

Taylor Heinicke is showing us that he’s not a one-hit-wonder. Earlier this year, Washington’s quarterback gripped the NFL as he went toe to toe with Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, and arguably gave them the biggest run for their money as they were en route to a Lombardi Trophy. Of course, the only reason Heinicke was even starting in that game was due to then-starter Alex Smith being ruled out due to injury. Nevertheless, he played, played well, and opened plenty of eyes. 

Fast-forward to Week 2 of the 2021 season and Heinicke’s Cinderella story in the NFL released its latest chapter. 

In prime time, the former undrafted quarterback out of Old Dominion earned his first-ever win as a starting quarterback in the NFL and did so in dramatic fashion. 

At the 4:50 mark in the fourth quarter, Giants kicker Graham Gano drilled a 55-yard field goal to give New York a six-point lead over Washington. Heinicke and the rest of the offense then took the field and quickly moved the ball down the field and into the end zone. The 28-year-old connected with J.D. McKissic for a 56-yard sideline pass and then threw what could be the best ball of his career — a 19-yard dime in the corner of the end zone to Ricky Seals-Jones

That score coupled with a Giants punt on their ensuing possession, seemingly had Washington in the driver’s seat to churn out a win, especially as they approached the two-minute warning. Prior to that break, however, Heinicke made the one mistake he couldn’t afford — an interception at the hands of James Bradberry that put New York immediately in the red zone. It was at that point where Heinicke was thought to be turned back into a pumpkin as he handed the ball and what appeared to be the win back to the Giants, who hit another field goal to go up 29-27. 

Heinicke wasn’t done, though. He was able to shake off the interception and proceeded to help Washington move 50 yards down the field with just one timeout in his pocket to set up the game-winning field goal and give himself his first-ever victory as a starter. On the game-winning drive, he completed 6 of 8 for 36 yards before spiking the ball on the grass with just five seconds on the clock.  

Heinicke finished this Thursday night thriller, completing 34 of his 46 throws for 336 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He was particularly sharp off play-action as Next Gen Stats had him completing 13 of 15 for 153 yards. Those two passing scores also came off that action. 

Again, similar to how he found himself starting in the Divisional Round last season, Heinicke was only under center in Week 2 due to an injury to the quarterback previously above him on the depth chart in Ryan Fitzpatrick. What’s different now is that Heinicke will be able to spend the next few months stating his case to hold this post for Washington. While it remains to be seen how that situation will play out, Heinicke has already shown us that he’s ready to embrace the opportunity. 

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