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Washington’s Taylor Heinicke emerges as Tampa Bay tormenter ... again

The undrafted QB who nearly beat the Bucs in last season’s playoffs finishes the job this time.
Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) finished 26 of 32 for 256 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers in his team's 29-19 upset of the Bucs Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) finished 26 of 32 for 256 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers in his team's 29-19 upset of the Bucs Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. [ PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP ]
Published Nov. 15, 2021|Updated Nov. 15, 2021

As dusk arrived on a raw, wretched afternoon in the Capital Beltway, Devin White encountered newest FedExField folk hero Taylor Heinicke and allotted credit where it was due.

“He’s a great football player,” the Bucs inside linebacker said. “I talked to him after the game, told him, man, I love his game, I love his tenacity just to keep plays alive for his squad and then find a (receiver).”

Seems Tom Brady may have come upon his Eli Manning of the current decade. Ten months after nearly leading Washington to a wild-card upset of the Bucs on the same field, Washington’s quarterback — an undrafted free agent from Old Dominion — removed the “nearly” from the equation in Sunday’s rematch.

While Brady was forced to subsist primarily on checkdown throws, Heinicke used his moxie and mobility to help lift Washington to a 29-19 upset. In the ninth start of his career, the 28-year-old Georgia native finished 26-of-32 for 256 yards and a touchdown.

“Taylor is a baller,” Washington receiver DeAndre Carter said. “He came to practice on Monday letting that thing rip and he made plays like he always does.”

Though sacked five times, he committed no turnovers, eating the ball instead of trying an ill-advised throw or pitch. In an epic 19-play touchdown drive that salted the game away in the fourth quarter, he went 6 for 6 for 45 yards, twice converting on third down with short completions and scrambling for 3 yards on third and 2.

“I just told myself (Sunday) when I was driving in, ‘Just go out there and have fun, leave it all out there,’ " said Heinicke, who signed with Washington’s practice squad in December while trying to complete an engineering degree at Old Dominion.

“This time last year, I didn’t know if I was ever going to play again. … For me to go out there and do that (Sunday), it’s a lot of fun. It’s a dream come true, and it’s something that you just want to keep doing.”

Sunday’s dream possessed significant parallels — including the setting and game-time temperature (Sunday’s was 47 degrees) — to the one Heinicke experienced in January.

Summoned at the 11th hour for the wild-card game when injured starter Alex Smith was ruled out, Heinicke mostly flourished on a frigid night, passing for 306 yards and a touchdown, and running for 46 more yards in Tampa Bay’s 31-23 win.

This time, though, the Bucs had film on Heinicke, who was making his eighth start of the season. Heinicke, who signed a two-year, $4.75 million deal with Washington in the offseason, said that advantage worked both ways.

“We watched them throughout this year on film, and they run a lot of the same stuff as last year, so we felt comfortable,” he said. “Our guys knew what they were getting into. We knew what we had to do to win, and everybody stepped up.”

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Nothing the Bucs attempted completely neutralized Heinicke. A bit more discreet with their blitzing at the outset, the Bucs watched Heinicke complete 13 of 16 passes in the first half. When they ratcheted the pressure in the second half, Heinicke again completed 13 of 16 passes.

“We let him get out too many times, and we talked about it all week,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “And I think we dropped three interceptions right in our hands, so you’re not going to beat anybody that way.”

One team’s self-destruction is another’s defining moment. Heinicke’s voice cracked as he spoke of his signature NFL win to date.

“These are the games you dream of as a kid,” he said.

“It’s a moment I dreamed of last year when I wasn’t playing. I always told myself if I get another chance to play, I’m going to go out there and do something great. It’s these games that you want. It means a lot to me. I know it means a lot to those guys to get a win like that against a team like that.”

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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