As the chances stacked upper and better towards his crew as its first-round playoff recreation towards the Tampa Bay Buccaneers neared, the play of a little-known quarterback and the resilience of Washington’s protection proved Rivera’s query legitimate.
Washington were given its likelihood and became its matchup with Tom Brady right into a mystery earlier than falling, 31-23, at FedEx Box.
Even supposing the loss ended the 1st 12 months of the Rivera generation in Washington, the crew added any other layer to its unbelievable run and created a brand new hero in undrafted quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who just a month in the past used to be cramming for ultimate tests in arithmetic at Outdated Dominion College.
The sixth-year quarterback used to be appointed the starter Saturday when it was obvious Alex Smith wouldn’t be capable of conquer the calf pressure he suffered weeks previous. Heinicke had began just one NFL recreation. He had by no means performed within the postseason.
However with just one complete week of apply with the first-team offense, Heinicke became in the most productive quarterback play Washington had noticed in a month, and possibly for much longer. He finished 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards, one landing and an interception for a 78.four ranking that shortchanges his true potency. He additionally led the crew with 46 speeding yards, together with a shocking landing when he dived for the pylon, and overcame a minimum of 5 drops from his receivers.
Heinicke led Washington on 4 scoring drives, blending deep passes with gutsy scrambles to stay his crew in it and not down via greater than two ratings — no small feat towards a awesome Bucs roster that averaged 30.eight issues this season.
Washington’s line of defense, most often its power, struggled for a lot of the 1st part to get power on Brady, however momentum shifted overdue within the first part and endured into the second one — when Washington most often got here alive this season.
Tampa Bay notched an early lead, with a box function on its opening pressure after which a 36-yard landing catch via Antonio Brown, who sped previous Jimmy Moreland in protection. However the certain performs started to stack up for Washington: a go breakup via cornerback Kendall Fuller on a Tampa Bay 3rd and 9 within the first quarter, a 36-yard of entirety to Cam Sims to rid the style of an previous drop, then Washington’s first scoring pressure, with Heinicke in rate.
Heinicke finished a couple of deep passes and collected a couple of first downs on scrambles earlier than operating again J.D. McKissic ran two yards for a landing early in the second one quarter.
However an bizarre choice via Washington to try an onside kick equipped a very simple trail to the top zone for the Bucs, who wanted most effective 4 performs earlier than Brady hit Chris Godwin for a 27-yard landing.
Operating again Antonio Gibson, who has been coping with turf toe, suffered a knee damage that looked as if it would give a contribution to his struggles, particularly on first downs. His quickness and burst disappeared, hanging much more power on Heinicke to get inventive.
However as the 1st part neared an finish, he discovered lend a hand from his protection, who in any case were given to Brady with a sack, courtesy of Montez Sweat. Brady completed 22 for 40 for 381 yards and two touchdowns.
Heinicke, alternatively, stored his very best for the top, guiding Washington on a couple of scoring drives to open the second one part — one in all which got here on a wild scramble — and enjoying via a left shoulder damage to guide his crew to at least one extra landing within the fourth quarter.
However his heroics couldn’t stay alongside of Brady and the Bucs, who completed off Washington with a landing and a couple of box objectives within the fourth quarter.