In his first four outings with the Washington Football Team — two relief appearances and two starts — it appeared that Taylor Heinicke could do no wrong.
But in his fifth game with the Burgundy and Gold, the quarterback did a lot wrong. And his coach believes his mistakes most often occurred when he was trying too hard to be right.
"Offensively, I think getting in the situation that we did, a couple of times I thought Taylor pressed a little bit, tried to make a little bit more happen than he needed to," Ron Rivera said following his club's dejecting 43-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
For the afternoon, Heinicke went 14-of-24 for 212 yards. He tossed two touchdowns and rushed for another, yet he was also responsible for two interceptions. A third pick, by the way, was erased due to multiple defensive penalties.
"There's big plays to be had, but at the same time, there's bad plays to be had, and I just got to eliminate those," Heinicke told the media afterward.
Now, Washington's inept defense deserves the overwhelming majority of the blame for the Week 3 result, since the group provided no resistance for Josh Allen and the hosts. Heinicke's first-ever road start in the NFL was already going to be a serious challenge, and that was before Jack Del Rio's unit flailed its way through four quarters.
Even so, both of Heinicke's turnovers were cardinal sins for a QB. On each sequence, he was unable to find an open option on his initial drop, which seemingly rattled him. From there, he got too anxious to create a positive gain — and ended up producing the exact opposite of that.
"We had a couple of calls where if he takes what's given to him, we have a chance to get the first down," Rivera said. "Those are the little things that he's got to learn to be comfortable with."
"It's something I'll work on, for sure," Heinicke said.
Now, Heinicke's aggressiveness is what has endeared him to so many of the franchise's fans and also allowed him to thrive in his brief stint with the organization. In Buffalo, for example, he pulled off another diving-for-the-pylon score with his legs and lobbed one up to Logan Thomas for a six-pointer on a late fourth down.
Heinicke's zeal, when used properly, is addicting to watch. It's also why those who share a uniform with him are so quick to support him.
Unfortunately, Sunday was the first stretch where it led to far more harm than heroics.
As perturbed as Rivera seemed by a handful of Heinicke's decisions, though, he doesn't necessarily want No. 4 to alter the way he performs, either.
"I'm not going to fault anybody for trying to give me everything he's got," the coach said.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick sidelined for at least another month with his hip injury, and probably more, Heinicke will see tons of additional opportunities to lead Washington's offense.
As for the direction he leads it, well, that'll be up to him and the types of choices he makes in key moments.