Taylor Heinicke has made just six professional starts in his NFL career, but the 28-year-old has already played against some of the league's best quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Josh Allen.
This week is no different. The NFL's best signal-caller, Patrick Mahomes, comes to town as the Washington Football Team is set to host the back-to-back AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
While much of the attention this week in Ashburn will be dedicated to slowing down Mahomes and the high-powered Kansas City offense, Heinicke said Wednesday that Sunday's game is not him against Mahomes.
Rather, the quarterback's focus for this Week 6 matchup is specifically on finding the best ways to attack the Chiefs defense, a unit that has struggled to begin the 2021 season.
"Last year, I wasn't going against Tom Brady. I was going against the Bucs' defense," Heinicke said. "You can't look at it like you're going against Mahomes. You just got to keep your game plan. We're going against the Chiefs' defense. That's what all of us as an offense have to understand. We just have to keep playing our game and keep executing our game plan."
One of the many things that makes Mahomes special is his rare combination of arm talent and athleticism. He can make any throw in the book -- sometimes without looking, too -- but can also beat defenses with his legs. While he doesn't necessarily fit the typical label of a running quarterback, his ability to extend plays and adapt on the fly is unparalleled.
When Mahomes and the Kansas City offense take the field on Sunday, Heinicke will, of course, be watching. But don't expect Washington's passer to try and do anything to emulate the Chiefs star QB when he's on the field.
"I don't think you can pick up anything from Mahomes. He's an unbelievable athlete [and] quarterback," Heinicke said.
"I kind of go back to when I was training kids when I wasn't playing and they were trying to do Mahomes-type stuff," he continued. "I was like, 'Listen, you're not Mahomes. That's something he can do. We can't.' I do like watching him play. He's really fun to watch. But again, I don't try to pick up any type of stuff from his game, because that would probably get me in trouble."
On paper, Washington is a less talented club than Kansas City. That's no secret. With Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill on one side of the ball, Jack Del Rio's defense will have its hands full trying to slow down Eric Bieniemy's offense.
If Washington does go down early, though, Heinicke vowed not to get distracted by the scoreboard. The quarterback said Wednesday he does not want a repeat of what happened in Week 3, when he turned the ball over on a pair of plays in Buffalo trying to do too much to make a play.
"We saw that in Week 3 against Buffalo. We saw how that ended up. I tried to make a couple plays here and there. I ended up throwing some interceptions and the game really got out of hand," Heinicke said. "Again, it's more about that complementary football. ... It's just playing our game, trying to move those chains and not trying to be too much."
In order for Washington to have any chance of upsetting the Chiefs on Sunday, it'll need to score a lot of points. Luckily for Heinicke and the offense, Kansas City's defense has been victim to that thus far this year.
The Chiefs are allowing 32.6 points per game, which is the worst in the NFL. Opposing offenses are averaging 7.1 yards per play against Kansas City's defense, which is by far the league's worst mark. Additionally, the unit has already allowed 27 plays of 20-plus yards this season, the third-most of any club.
Simply put, Kansas City's defense is a unit that Heinicke and offensive coordinator Scott Turner should exploit.
Since taking over as Washington's starter midway through Week 1, Heinicke has electrified an offense that needed a spark. He's led Washington to two wins, orchestrating a game-winning drive in each.
Naturally, Heinicke had his growing pains, too. After all, he's made just half a dozen NFL starts. He's made some errant throws in all three of Washington's losses, particularly last week against the Saints.
But after a down week, Heinicke is eager to get back on the field and make the plays he knows he's capable of.
"I'm still kind of pissed off about it," Heinicke said of his Week 5 outing. "I just used that as fuel for the next week. I kind of came out to practice today, still a little pissed off about some of those plays I made. I just used that as fuel to get better throughout the week. Some people use different methods, but I kind of hold it with me and use it as fuel. I've done that throughout my career.”