Earlier this week, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said he wanted quarterback Taylor Heinicke to be a bit more of a "game-manager."
Those comments came just one day after a poor outing from his quarterback in Buffalo, but they did seem a bit odd considering one of the best aspects of Heinicke's game is his ability to extend plays and make something out of nothing.
Rivera didn't necessarily mean the term with the negative connotation that is typically associated with it. Rather, the head coach wanted Heinicke to do a better job of making the play that's there, rather than trying to force an errant or risky throw in order to make something happen.
On Sunday, following a thrilling 34-30 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Rivera took a different tone when discussing his quarterback -- praising him for his outstanding effort against his hometown team.
"I thought he managed it well, obviously. The big thing is, and we've talked about it, make a play when you have to. He made several," Rivera said.
Heinicke's numbers -- 23-of-33 for 290 yards and three touchdowns, with an additional 43 rushing yards on the ground -- are impressive alone. But his ability to keep plays alive and adapt on the fly is what stood out most on Sunday. Whenever it seemed there was a chance for Atlanta to bury Washington, Heinicke proved otherwise.
"Taylor is just one of those dynamic players who knows how to make plays. As I said, nothing is ever done with him. He's just going to continue to work," Rivera said.
The first of two 'wow' plays from Heinicke came with just under four minutes remaining in the final quarter with Washington down by eight. On first-and-10 from the Falcons' 17-yard line, Heinicke was faced with an Atlanta blitz. The quarterback was able to avoid multiple rushers before throwing a 50-50 ball to star wideout Terry McLaurin, one that Washington's star wideout would haul in for his second score of the game.
Then, after Washington's defense forced a three-and-out, Heinicke took the field with Washington down two and a chance to lead the Burgundy and Gold on a game-winning drive. After making a handful of solid throws that moved Washington's offense down the field, Heinicke made another signature play.
Washington was faced with a third-and-7 from the Falcons 30-yard line, down two with under a minute of game clock remaining. Heinicke, rolling left, went through his first four reads. No receiver was open. The quarterback then flipped his hips and threw the ball across the field to an open J.D. McKissic in the flat. McKissic made the first defender miss, and the rest was history.
That game-winning touchdown pass was, to Rivera, just the latest example that shows Washington is truly never out of it with Heinicke under center.
"I think that's really important that our guys understand we're never out of the game," Rivera said. "Offensively, I think the guys look at it with a guy like Taylor, we aren't. We always have a chance to win. Really kind of get him an understanding that no play is dead, so you see the way they keep working. A great illustration is J.D. McKissic. Taylor is working, working to the far left. He's sees J.D. to the far right and throws it out there. That's who he is."
Outside of the Buffalo game last week, Heinicke has made the most of every opportunity he's had since arriving in Washington late last fall. Sunday was the first road win of his career -- one in his home state of Georgia, nonetheless. With Ryan Fitzpatrick sidelined for the next few weeks, at a minimum, Heinicke will continue to have chances to prove himself.
"He's got a tremendous ability to deliver. Hats off to him," Rivera said. "He's a courageous dude who plays all out. His teammates, they feed off his energy, especially the offensive guys."