Former Patriots QB Shines in Playoff Loss, Stirs Talk About 2021 Return

Getty Taylor Heinicke

The Washington Football Team came close to pulling off the upset over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday, and their ability to hang tough had a lot to do with the play of Taylor Heinicke.

The 27-year-old who played in the XFL in 2019 after bouncing around from several teams–including the New England Patriots’ practice squad–settled in for WFT in emergency-relief duty and nearly led his team to an improbable win.

WFT fell short 31-23, but Heinicke completed 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards with a TD and an interception. He ran for 46 yards and another score as well. Queue the Heinicke to the Patriots talk for 2021.

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Prisoners of the Moment or on to Something?

During and after Heinicke’s performance on Saturday night, members of the media and Patriots Nation took to Twitter to discuss the what-ifs and if-we-hads that were destined to come if the former New England practice squad QB played well.

Take a look:

There is no question, Heinicke put on a heroic and inspired performance. Is it too early for most of the speculation and adulation he received–at least as it pertains to forward-looking success–absolutely.

That said, Heinicke did make some throws on Saturday that were unquestionable, big-boy, NFL-QB tosses, and that is noteworthy no matter what the situation. It’s also important to note, the Buccaneers had no time to develop a defensive gameplan tailored to Heinicke because they didn’t even know he’d be playing until at the earliest Friday.

Even if they had known he was playing, there isn’t a ton of relevant tape on him. I don’t mean to take away the shine of what was a great performance, but there is a lot to consider before we go down a road that leads us to compare him to Cam Newton or any other quarterback who played regularly this season.

Shackles-Off Playcalling

Since it is inevitable and Ben Volin already indirectly made the comparison to Newton with his mention of the Patriots’ passing game this season, let’s talk about playcalling. It seems hard to believe that the WFT trusted a guy they had to bring up from the practice squad to throw the ball 44 times on Saturday in a playoff game when Josh McDaniels and Co. seemingly had Newton on a pitch count all season.

Newton attempted 44 passes one time in 2020. In that game, a Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Newton threw for a season-high 397 yards, a touchdown, and an interception and he also ran for 2 more scores. That sounds a lot like Heinicke’s line from Saturday, only a little bit better.

Funny things can happen when offensive coordinators take the shackles off of their playcalling and trust guys to play football. It’s funny if Newton does leave New England in the offseason, one of his potential landing spots figures to be Washington where he would reunite with his former head coach Ron Rivera. Maybe there he would get a chance to show if his shoulder is truly shot, as many would have you to believe, or if he just needed to be trusted to play quarterback.

 

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