Three takeaways from the WFT’s shocking upset of the Bucs

By Gibson Hirt

It seems like Taylor Heinicke turns it up a notch when playing Tom Brady and Co. In Heinicke’s two starts against the Buccaneers, Heinicke is 52/76 for 623 yards and three total touchdowns. Like the Wild Card game last year, he methodically led Washington to points on their opening four drives — the first time in over five years — and picked apart a Bucs defense that was ranked in the top ten of nearly every defensive category heading into Sunday’s contest. 

Not only was Heinicke terrific, but the defense had their best showing of the season by a mile. They picked off Brady twice in the first quarter and held him to just 220 yards through the air. Although the defense couldn’t pick up any sacks, the d-line still generated constant pressure in the backfield, forcing Brady to become a checkdown connoisseur.

Some who got overshadowed by the huge victory was Joey Slye. For the first time in years, Washington might have found a reliable kicker. Slye made all three of his field goals and his lone extra point. Even if he misses a few kicks here and there, having a reliable kicker will be huge for Washington moving forward.

Here are three takeaways from Washington’s unbelievable Week 10 performance:

Heinicke’s poise was incredible 

Coming into the week, it felt like one more poor outing and Heinicke would be on the hot seat for the starting quarterback role. After his exceptional performance against the ultra-talented Buccaneers, Heinicke most likely has the job for the rest of the season, especially with the news that Ryan Fitzpatrick is expected to miss the remainder of the year with his lingering hip injury. For the first time since Week 4 against Atlanta, Heinicke didn’t turn the ball over a single time. He looked poised and unbothered whenever he was under pressure. The most impressive aspect of his performance was his decision-making. On several occasions, instead of heaving a contested ball downfield, Heinicke often attempted high percentage throws, gaining chunk yardage and helping Washington dominate Tampa Bay in possession time, 39:08 to 20:52. He completed over 80% of his passes, going 26/32 for 256 yards, including a beautiful touchdown pass to Deandre Carter that put Washington up by two possessions in the first half. Whenever the Bucs got pressure in the backfield, Heinicke kept his eyes downfield and used his legs to turn a would-be sack into positive yardage. His throws were far more accurate than in previous weeks; he constantly fit the ball in tight windows, allowing his receivers to make a play on the ball. During Washington’s game-clinching 19-play drive, Heinicke threaded the needle several times, picking up a couple key first downs. Both conversions came on incredible catches by Adam Humphries and Terry McLaurin. Heincike’s fantastic outing helped lead Washington to their biggest and most significant victory of the season by a landslide.

Possession time proved vital 

For only the second time this season, Washington finished a game with more possession time than their opponent. The WFT had the ball for an astounding 39:08, while the Bucs had possession for 20:52. Heinicke led the team on multiple slow, steady, double-digit play drives that helped keep Brady off the field. The long drives were crucial; they allowed the banged-up defense to rest and also put most of the pressure on Tampa Bay’s offense to make plays. The highlight of Washington’s dominance of possession time was their game-clinching 19-play, 80 yard and 10:26 drive that was capped off with an Antonio Gibson rushing touchdown that made FedEx Field go berserk. 

The injury bug strikes again 

For Washington, it feels like every time they take a step forward, they are forced a step right back. The team has been battling injuries all season long, but there was hope for a fully healthy squad after a much-needed bye week. Brandon Scherff returned from injury, and Logan Thomas will be rejoining the team in the near future. The team’s situation was looking good until kickoff versus Tampa Bay. Early on, McLaurin headed to the locker room with a collarbone injury, but thankfully he was able to return the next series. Scherff, who was finally back in the starting lineup after missing the past four games, suffered another injury. He too was able to return to action after sitting on the sideline for a series. The big blow, however, came halfway through the second quarter with Washington already up 13–0. Former DROY Chase Young suffered a devastating non-contact knee injury that has since been diagnosed as a fully torn ACL. Young will miss the rest of the season and, most likely, part of next year. Although he wasn’t as productive as he was last season, Young always gave 100% on the field, leading the team with his effort and energy. Now, he’ll have to step up and continue to be the leader on the sideline, supporting his teammates in any way possible. The d-line will be without their two star edge rushers until Montez Sweat recovers from his jaw fracture. Jonathan Allen will need to continue his stellar season and others will need to step up in Sweat and Young’s absence.

An astounding Week 10 performance puts Washington right back in the playoff hunt in a muddled NFC. Washington travels down to Carolina next week for Ron Rivera’s homecoming game against his former team. Although they will be without their two young defensive stars, Washington is still more than capable of beating Carolina. Let’s hope Sunday’s performance was a sign of positive things to come for the burgundy and gold.