3 instant over-reactions as Taylor Heinicke's heroics fall short originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Taylor Heinicke electrified the Washington Football Team, the Washington Football Team fan base, and it seems like the whole country, with an incredible performance Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC Wild Card game.
The game was wild — a real roller coaster that looked like a Bucs blowout early on before a gutty performance from Heinicke and the Washington defense. Entering the fourth quarter, Tampa held just a two-point lead, and honestly, this was shaping up to be an all-time playoff comeback.
Only it wasn't. Heinicke hurt his arm in the fourth quarter, had to leave the field for a few minutes and the dream eventually ran out of steam in a 31-23 loss that ended a crazy Washington season. Still, we learned some things tonight:
- BALLER - Taylor Heinicke can play. Seriously play. His elusiveness behind the line of scrimmage combined with his accuracy throwing the football make him a viable two-way threat. He looks downfield early and often and is able to get through his progressions quick. He's an unrestricted free agent, and with a smaller frame injuries will be a concern, but Heinicke is a baller. Washington would be wise to try and keep him around in 2021, and considering the closeness between the QB and Washington's coaching staff, it should be doable. For the game, Heinicke finished with 306 passing yards and another 46 rushing yards. He added a spectacular rushing touchdown and threw for another. It was impressive.
- Good but room to grow - The Washington defense carried this team into the playoffs and the NFC East title, and while the group gave up too many big plays and third down conversions, it again impressed. The front four did not dominate Tom Brady, and the veteran finished with more than 300 passing yards and two touchdowns. In a lot of ways this was a learning experience for Washington's young defense, where a few coverage breakdowns cost 14 points.
- To have and to hold - Sadly a few key holding calls — and non-holding calls — played a huge role in this game. Brandon Scherff was called for his first holding penalty of the year on a crucial third-down play that would have resulted in a first down and kept the Washington offense on the field. It was a questionable call at best. On the defensive side, it seemed that repeatedly Daron Payne and Chase Young were held and no flag was thrown.
There's a lot more to digest, and a weird early onsides kick in the second quarter made little sense, but still it was a tremendous overall effort from Washington, and particularly Heinicke, on a night where Alex Smith couldn't play and no one really knew what to expect. The season came to an end, but with a 7-9 regular-season record, a division title, a ton of adversity overcome throughout the season and a competitive playoff game, there was plenty to build on for the future.