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Washington Given Second Chance; Heinicke Notches First Win

By Mark Solway | September 17th, 2021

Did the Washington Football Team actually just catch a break? It doesn’t seem that often of late, that a critical bounce or call seemed to go Washington’s way. Yet last night, Washington got a favourable call, and rode it to their first win of the young season. The first win for Taylor Heinicke, in his NFL career.

Up And Down We Go

The fourth quarter of last night’s Thursday tilt between Washington and the New York Giants was an absolute roller coaster. The lead changed hands three times in the last five minutes of play. There was a game-winning field goal attempt as the clock was running dry. Then there was another game-winning field goal attempt when the clock had run dry.

Originally, Washington attempted a field goal on the last play of the game and Dustin Hopkins missed from 48-yards. However, the Giants’ Dexter Lawrence was flagged when he inexplicably jumped offside, and Hopkins got to try again from 43-yards with zero time on the clock.

This time Hopkins made good, and kicked a walk off game-winning 30-29 field goal at Landover.

If you’re a nail biter, you were down to bloody stumps by the time Hopkins banged the second one through.

The win moved the WFT to 1-1 on the season, and gave Taylor Heinicke the victory in his first start replacing the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Heinicke Steps Up

Heinicke played well He finished an impressive 28-36 with 336 yards and two touchdowns. He looked sharp in the pocket, made good decisions, and looked capable of leading this team over the first half of 2021 – if not longer.

However, his only real blemish on the day nearly cost his team the game.

Heinecke was picked off by the Giants’ James Bradberry with a hair over two minutes to go, and at Washington’s 20-yard line. The interception wasn’t entirely his fault as Terry McLaurin got bumped and didn’t quite get to the spot that Heinecke was expecting him to. Still, it was a critical turnover at an absolutely critical time in the game.

It could have cost Washington the game. It probably should have cost them the game. If it weren’t a bottom-five team like New York, it almost certainly would have cost them the game.

But it didn’t.

Heinicke Dusts Himself Off

To his credit, Heinicke went to the sideline and composed himself, and it was visibly apparent that he was just begging to get another chance to get out on the field.

That chance came when Washington’s defense shut down the Giants – for the first time in the second half – and forced them to kick a field goal with exactly two minutes on the clock. That Graham Gano field goal put the Giants up 29-27, and Washington had just one timeout to stop the clock.

Heinicke took his time, and bit small chunks out of the field to get closer and closer. Ultimately he moved Washington 50 yards on 11 plays, to get them down to the 30-yard line. That set up the dramatic game-ending two field goal attempt scenario that played out. He didn’t try anything stupid. He didn’t get desperate, even on a fourth down conversion. He just calmly took the reins and did what you want a quarterback to do in those situations.

No matter how “lucky” it might have been, Heinicke got that feel-good first regular season win as an NFL quarterback.

His only previous start before coming to Washington, was for the Carolina Panthers, against the Atlanta Falcons in 2018. Heinicke went 33 for 53 for 274 yards that day, with a touchdown and three interceptions. He suffered an elbow injury during the game, and was replaced by Kyle Allen ironically – the man who was backing him up again last night.

Heinicke did of course also start for Washington in last year’s Wild Card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, when Alex Smith was ruled out.

It’s tough not to pull for The Kid. That’s what you call a player that doesn’t have a lot of NFL experience, isn’t it? Even if he’s 28-years old.

After going undrafted in 2015, he was bounced around for six years and spent time on four other NFL rosters. He even went to the the St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL in 2020, and did not see the field. Nobody would have blinked if his football career would have ended right there.

After The Game

“Last year at this time, I was at home taking classes,” Heinicke told NFL Network last night.

While on NFL Network, Michael Irvin asked the quarterback, “Do you believe, with the job that you’ve done here, that you have earned the right to start at quarterback for the Washington Football Team the rest of the year?”

Heinicke answered without pause or hesitation, “I do, and I have confidence that I can do it. So if those guys in the locker room and the facility believe in me, that’s all that matters, and I believe they do.”

Coach Ron Rivera and the staff probably believe more today, than they did yesterday.

The Hot Hand?

Wether Heinicke’s confidence is founded or not, he’s what Washington is going with, for at least the first half of the season.

What happens beyond that will likely be determined by his performances, and the team’s results, over the next six or seven games.

For now, get behind him.

Washington got lucky last night.

Maybe it’s The Kid that is the lucky rabbit’s foot.

Notes:

The win snapped a five-game losing streak to the NFC East rival Giants.

Up next for Washington are two road games – the first of which is on September 26th, against the Buffalo Bills.

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