It was the fourth quarter and the fourth i-21, and after slipping out of the tide of Tampa Bay, Washington quarterback Taylor Heineke threw a double pass.
It was a prayer that could keep the miracle alive. Gaining hope that, if secured by teammate Logan Thomas, he can extend one of the most incredible NFL playoff games – Tom Brady and his six Super Bowl rings against Taylor Heinicke and his, well, one career start before Saturday .
These are the things that make Disney movies – the Old Dominion journeyman, a 27-year-old with 126 clicks of his name in the NFL, a man who skipped five franchises just to be turned down three times and cut three times all until almost never plays. He even spent a few weeks on the New England Patriots coaching team, ostensibly a teammate of Brady himself.
Now, however, they somehow walked fifth to fifth ̵
Brady was looking for his 31st victory in the playoffs, a record, of course. Heineke was looking for his first win of any kind as an NFL starter.
Still, the two-minute warning on the board read: Tampa Bay 31, Washington 23. One-player game. Washington had the ball. Anything was possible.
Heineke was not on the NFL roster in 2019. In the spring of 2020, he joined the St. Louis BattleHawks of the XFL, only he could not even win the starting job. When the league collapsed and interest in the NFL didn’t materialize, he thought it might be time to move on.
He re-registered with Old Dominion to complete his engineering degree. The NFL 2020 season continued without him. Then in early December, in the middle of the finals, Washington called and offered him a job until the end of the season. It wasn’t glamorous. In principle, Washington wanted him to be a “quarantine defender” only if everyone else got COVID-19 and couldn’t play.
Hey, it was a chance. Heineke asked his teachers to extend the final exams.
“I had to send them an email and tell them the whole situation and ask them if I could pick them up after the season,” Heinike said.
And, old man, I just got a signature to play quarterback-in-the-NFL apology …
“They were pretty good at it,” he said.
Things were moving fast. Due to injuries (Alex Smith) and immaturity (Dwayne Haskins), Heineke found himself in the match of the 16th week of Washington. He went 12-for-19 and threw a touchdown, only the second in his career. Smith returned for the season finale, but was then disqualified from the wild card game on Saturday with a sore calf.
That’s right, Heinike was against the future Hall of Fame.
Brady was Brady, 381 yards and two touchdowns. Tampa wasn’t great, but he had a balanced attack that should have been enough to win comfortably against QB without a name. Except that apparently Heineke didn’t get the note. In fact, he said he made a point of not even thinking about how Tom Brady was on the other side.
“I just wanted to go out there and finish the ball,” Heinike said. “Just fill the ball and take the first drops.”
That he did. He made passes on the run. Then he ran when they thought he would pass. He fixed the mistakes. He threw for 306 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for another 46 yards and another result – closed by a brilliant dive for the pylon, which made a game with two points at that time.
“He has this ‘this’ factor,” said Morgan Moses, an offensive serviceman in Washington. “You can’t learn it.”
However, the dive was painful, which led to the release of AC in his shoulder. A few strong hits in the next series sent Heinicke into the locker room, but he returned to the field and did not miss a click.
“It was impulsive,” said Washington coach Ron Rivera. “It really was.”
The questions were the same throughout the NFL. How could this man not be in the league? And where is the man who started over it in XFL? (He’s not in the league either.)
“He did a lot of plays,” said Tampa coach Bruce Arians. “He had a lot of balance.”
Now he needed another one. Third, with the ball on Tampa’s 49-yard line, he had tried too hard and was fired. Now he was desperate, with a pack of Bucs attacking him. He turned, made a backup, and finally picked it up.
Heineke was trying to write that Disney movie. And Disney movies are fun. Reality is a different beast. The passage was high and floating. Tampa’s defense knocked him down.
The dream is over. Tom Brady would win again. They then shared a moment of mutual congratulations.
“We put everything in line,” Heineke said. “But it just came out a little short.
Heineke’s moment in the spotlight is not necessarily over. He may never play in a playoff game against Tom Brady again, but you still play and don’t sign up for more engineering classes. Either Washington will hold him or someone will grab him.
“A man like him who works hard for what he does has created an opportunity for himself,” Rivera said.
“I was in the real world,” Heineke said. “It’s not fun. Not as much fun as that. “
For that real world. The season is over, these finals are waiting.
“We hope that these professors will send me an email and say, ‘You’re over, you’re fine,'” Heineke joked.
“I’m sure that won’t happen,” he continued. “I will take them in a few weeks. And let’s hope we pass them. ”
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