LANDOVER, Md. — The Taylor Heinicke love affair in Washington is about to bloom in full force. Just when it looked like the fan favorite had made a crucial mistake, he recovered to lead a stirring rally.
The Washington Football Team quarterback fueled a comeback win over the New York Giants on Thursday night in the third start of his roller-coaster career. He led a two-minute drive, capped by Dustin Hopkins’ 43-yard field goal at the buzzer for a 30-29 victory. Hopkins had initially missed from 48 yards, but New York was penalized for being offside.
Washington evened its record at 1-1 in Heinicke’s first start subbing for the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will miss six to eight weeks with a right hip subluxation.
Washington will play at the Buffalo Bills next week.
But this night belonged to Heinicke. He completed 34 of 46 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. His lone interception nearly wrecked the day, an ill-advised pass that James Bradberry picked off deep in Washington territory. It resulted in a field goal and a lead for the Giants.
Only minutes earlier, Heinicke’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Seals-Jones with 4 minutes, 33 seconds left gave Washington a 27-26 lead. Heinicke lofted a perfect pass to the backup tight end, who made a leaping catch. It happened one play after Heinicke hit running back J.D. McKissic with a soft toss down the right sideline for 56 yards.
The signal-caller certainly gave Washington’s fans what they had been wanting. They had fallen in love with Heinicke late last season when he threw for 306 yards and a touchdown in a 31-23 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, against whom he also made a diving touchdown run. His grit energized teammates, notably wide receiver Terry McLaurin and defensive end Chase Young.
Heinicke’s underdog story resonated with fans and players alike: a former undrafted free agent who was taking four math classes at Old Dominion University when Washington signed him in December. He did not play in the NFL in 2019 or in 2020 until signed by Washington. He was a backup in the XFL last year.
But his play has helped spark Washington whenever he has been in the game.
On Tuesday, Young said one reason he liked Heinicke was because he never looked rattled. That was the case on Thursday. The quarterback struggled on Washington’s first couple of possessions before getting hot.
Perhaps the most impressive part: Heinicke didn’t buckle after his big mistake. Instead, he did what he has done throughout his career: overcome adversity. And Washington benefitted.