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LANDOVER, Md. – The Taylor Heinicke love affair in Washington is flourishing at full force. Just when it looked like the fan favorite had made a crucial mistake, he recovered to lead a touching convention.
The Washington Football Team quarterback gave rise to a comeback victory over the New York Giants on Thursday night in the third start of his roller coaster career. He led a two-minute drive, bounded by Dustin Hopkins ’43-yard field goal by the buzzer for a 30-29 victory. Hopkins had originally missed from 48 yards, but New York was penalized for being offside.
Washington equalized its record to 1-1 in Heinicke’s first start by subbbing for the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will miss six to eight weeks with a right hip subluxation.
Washington plays the Buffalo Bills next week.
Heinicke had lost the two previous starts of his career, including a three-wicket game against the Atlanta Falcons for the Carolina Panthers in 2018.
But this night belonged to Heinicke. He completed 34 of 46 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. His lone wiretapping almost ruined the day, a bad piece of advice that James Bradberry picked up deep in Washington territory. It led to a field goal and a lead for the Giants.
Just 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 picked up a perfect pass for the close backup, which made a leaping catch. It came a game after Heinicke continuously hit back JD McKissic with a soft throw down the right sideline in 56 yards.
But the signal caller gave Washington fans what they wanted. They had fallen in love with Heinicke late last season when he threw 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 gravelly energetic teammates, especially wide receiver Terry McLaurin and defensive end Chase Young.
Heinicke’s underdog story resonated with fans and gamers alike: a formerly drafted free agent who took 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 he was signed by Washington. He was a backup in the XFL last year.
But his game has helped rub Washington once he’s been in the game.
On Tuesday, Young said one of the reasons he liked Heinicke was that he never looked rattled. That was the case Thursday. The quarterback struggled with Washington’s first pair of possessions before getting hot.
Perhaps the most impressive part: Heinicke did not strain after his big mistake. Instead, he did what he has done throughout his career: overcome adversity. And Washington profited from it.