On Saturday night at FedEx Field, Taylor Heinicke went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady. He even returned to action after suffering a fourth-quarter shoulder injury to give Washington one last shot and nearly evened the score just before the final whistle.
But in the end, it's the Burgundy and Gold who's heading home, as they went down 31-23 to the Buccaneers in the Wild Card round of the NFL's playoffs.
Most would've been more than content if the 2015 undrafted free agent turned in a mediocre performance in just his second-ever pro start. Instead, Heinicke was magical, which shouldn't be lost in the loss.
Heinicke's best moment — and, probably, one of the best moments of the entire campaign — came in the third quarter on a third-and-5. Tampa's defense tried to suffocate him in the pocket, but No. 4 found a way to escape left, scoot down the sideline and then full-extension dive at the pylon for a touchdown.
At that point, Taylor Mania had fully set in.
That was far from his only highlight, however. The small but speedy Heinicke came up with a few more clutch scrambles, dropped in the softest six-pointer you'll ever see to Steven Sims and, eventually, finished with 306 passing yards. 306!
Overall, he put together what was undoubtedly Washington's best quarterback outing of the year. In the postseason. After signing with the team a month ago.
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Actually, Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio's defense — the unit that was supposed to lead the way on Saturday — is what faltered. A defensive line that needed to force Tom Brady into sacks and bad decisions couldn't get its hands on him enough, which allowed the precise Brady to pick apart the back end essentially whenever he wanted.
By the end of the evening, things felt best when Heinicke was on the field, not Chase Young and Co. Imagine that.
Now, with about four minutes left, Daron Payne did take down Brady, killing a drive that ultimately ended in a Bucs' field goal. That kick made the score 31-23 with 2:49 left.
Heinicke got one more shot.
To begin that possession, he hit Terry McLaurin for 17 yards. Next up was a seed to Cam Sims, his preferred target all game, for another chain-mover.
On the snap ahead of the two-minute warning, though, he was sacked for a loss of 11.
That led to a fourth-and-21, and that's where the movie script ran out of ink. His last-ditch long ball to Logan Thomas was knocked down, and from there, Brady ran out the clock.
Washington is now set to begin its offseason, one where the franchise has to identify its signal caller of the future. Despite how he produced on Saturday, Heinicke is unlikely to be that guy.
Yet for four quarters, he was. And because of that, those in Washington will never forget Taylor Heinicke's name.