Taylor Heinicke, Washington Put Up a Fight in Loss to Buccaneers

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Ron Rivera handed quarterback Taylor Heinicke the keys in Saturday night's wild-card bout against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs prevailed, winning 31-23, but Washington didn't go down without a fight.

Washington opted to start Heinicke in place of veteran QB Alex Smith, who is still battling a calf injury. He went 26 of 44 for 306 yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown in only his second NFL start. According to Next Gen Stats, he "reached a top speed of 19.29 MPH on this 8-yard TD run, traveling 39.1 yards from snap to the moment he crossed the pylon."

Heinicke's heroics were briefly halted when the quarterback exited with a shoulder injury. He returned to the game shortly thereafter, throwing a dime to Steven Sims and pulling the playoff battle into a one-possession game

"Gutsy. It really was," Rivera said of Heinicke after the game. "It's one of those things that -- a guy like him who works hard at what he does, he's created an opportunity for himself. And we'll see what happens."

In the end, Heinicke's performance paired with Washington Football's defense that tallied 67 total tackles and three sacks wasn't enough to contain Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Brady, the oldest player to throw a touchdown pass in NFL playoff history at 43 years and 159 days old, went 22 of 40 for 381 yards and two touchdowns. 

Although they had a scoreless third quarter, Tampa Bay put up 13 points in the fourth, giving them an edge over Washington. 

Tampa Bay's victory is the franchise's first playoff win since winning Super Bowl XXXVII on Jan. 26, 2003, and Brady's 31st playoff victory of his career. The Bucs advance to the divisional round.

As for Washington, Twitter was abuzz with Heinicke praise from around the league: