Five weeks ago, Taylor Heinicke was taking math classes at Old Dominion. Saturday night, the Washington Football Team quarterback went toe to toe with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Wild Card Matchup.
Despite a late push and impressive performance by Heinicke in just his second career start, Brady and Bucs advanced past the Football Team 31-23 on the road.
For the Bucs, it is the franchise's first postseason win since their win in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003. For Brady, it's his 31st career playoff win.
Brady completed 22-of-40 passes totaling 381 yards, which is a franchise record and tossed two touchdowns. Heinicke finished the game with only one touchdown pass but threw for 306 yards on 26-of-44 passing and was picked off once.
Tampa Bay did not score as many points as the team could have, settling for three field goals on the first three trips to the red zone. However, on the team's fourth time in the red zone, running back Leonard Fournette finally was able to score a touchdown, punching the ball in from three yards out.
Fournette's touchdown run, which capped off a seven-play 69-yard drive, gave Tampa Bay a two-possession lead 28-16 with 9:11 remaining in the game. Most watching thought that would be enough to win the game, but Heinicke and Co. felt differently.
Knowing they needed a touchdown, the Washington Football Team drove down the field as Heinicke took control of the no-huddle offense and capped off an 11-play 75-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown passes to Steve Sims Jr. The touchdown grab made it a five-point game, 28-23, with 4:51 left in the game.
Tampa Bay responded strongly as Brady hit wide receiver Mike Evans for 35 yards deep down the field. The Bucs settled for another field goal as Ryan Succop nailed the 37-yard attempt, which put the game out of reach for Washington 31-23 with less than three minutes remaining.
It was unclear all week long whether or not Evans would be able to play after hyperextending his left knee in Week 17. After an MRI revealed no structural damage, Evans was limited in practice but gave it a go Saturday night. The move paid off for Evans as he finished with 119 yards and six catches, setting a franchise record for most receiving yards in a playoff game.
Washington began the third quarter looking to make the game interesting trailing by double digits. The Football Team scored a field goal early in the quarter making the score 18-10.
Heinicke led Washington down the field after connecting with Cam Sims for 19 yards on the first play of the drive. Later in the drive, Heinicke scrambled for 13 yards. On third and five at the Bucs' eight yardline, Heinicke ran for the corner of the endzone and dove for the touchdown with 2:14 left in the third quarter. Tampa Bay only led 18-16 entering the fourth quarter.
Featured as the league's best rush defense, the Bucs did a good job of keeping Washington rookie running back Antonio Gibson in check throughout the game. The Memphis product only ran for 31 yards total and no touchdowns after rushing for 795 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Bucs were without Ronald Jones II who reportedly suffered a quad injury prior to the start of the game. In his place, Fournette carried the ball 19 times for 93 yards and one touchdown.
The Bucs lead 18-7 at halftime after Brady got off to a sharp-looking start. The veteran quarterback became the first in NFL history to throw 75 touchdowns in the playoffs as he hit Godwin for a 27-yard score at the 10:03 mark of the second quarter.
Tampa Bay put together a balanced opening drive running the ball three times and passing five times going 70 yards in just over three minutes. However, the drive resulted in only a 29-yard field goal by Ryan Succop.
Sean Murphy-Bunting recorded his first career interception in the playoffs catching a tipped pass to force the turnover. The Bucs took advantage of the turnover as Brady hit Brown for a 36-yard touchdown pass and Tampa Bay led 9-0 after a blocked extra point.
The Football Team responded well as Heinicke used his legs and arm to hurt the Bucs' defense. Heinicke passed to Terry McLaurin for 18 yards then scrambled for 10 more yards. McKissic capped off the 10-play 75-yard drive punching the ball in from two yards out making the score 9-7 early in the second quarter.
McLaurin finished the game with six catches for 75 receiving yards as Cam Sims led the Football Team with seven catches and 105 yards.
Tampa Bay recovered an onside kick attempt and Brady connected with Brown for 22 yards. A couple of players later Brady threw his second touchdown of half to Godwin and the Bucs lead 15-7. The Bucs could have added another touchdown before halftime but settled for a 23-yard field goal from Succop.
The Bucs' 31 points scored against Washington tied for the second-most in a postseason game in franchise history.