Quarterbacking an NFL offense is kind of like driving a car. You have to know where to go, how to best get there, be able to see what's happening around you, and diagnose that information accurately to make the best decision possible. If you aren't comfortable with those things, it doesn't matter if you know how to drive, it's not going to go well.
So, when Taylor Heinicke steps on the field to lead the Washington Football Team and looks uncomfortable, it's not a surprise the vehicle he's driving doesn't go in the right direction.
Driving while ignoring your natural tendencies is eventually going to lead to bad results. Whether it's a delay, lack of natural reaction, or something worse.
There's playing out of your comfort zone, and then there's ignoring what makes you an NFL quarterback in the first place. On Sunday against the Chiefs, we saw the latter.
Heinicke had zero runs in Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs, not a single one.
Either by design or self-inflicted boxing in, Heinicke treated the line of scrimmage like the cliff between safety and lava, and he didn't have his lava-proof cleats on.
"It was trying to take what was given more so than anything else," head coach Ron Rivera told media when asked about the conservative nature of Sunday's game plan. "The game plan just calls for you to go through your progression."
No mention of capitalizing on athleticism, which is part of what made Heinicke such a valued contributor in last year's playoff upset bid against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and what has helped create some of the more fan-pleasing moments of the year up to this point.
Rivera did talk about quarterback athleticism in his press conference though.
"What changed the second half was the quarterback's ability to get outside the pocket and make something happen," Rivera said of Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. "A couple of times he scrambles and threw the ball downfield and made something out of it."
While Washington's athletic quarterback was statuesque going through progressions, Kansas City's was leveraging his athleticism to help his team when they had issues getting the offense rolling the way they'd like.
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There was a moment where Heinicke's athleticism helped the offense, kind of.
On this third-and-8 play, Heinicke gets pressure immediately from the Chiefs defense. His athleticism helps him escape, only to be wrapped up and taken down by another defender. Only good fortune and quick thinking keeps the Washington quarterback from being down, and he immediately...runs away from the line of scrimmage.
Part of the equation here is that there's another Chiefs defender nearby when Heinicke gets up. But the quarterback known for making plays for his team with his legs, ignores that instinct and instead looks to take a shot downfield.
Everyone in front of him has stopped playing, and while we can't see the full field in front of him, gaining the eight yards necessary seems likely given his speed and ability to get upfield.
At worst, Heinicke can turn disaster into gain and perhaps set up a fourth-and-short opportunity.
Instead, he plays keep-away with the line of scrimmage again, and eventually throws the ball into the dirt.
This play is an all-in-one snapshot of how the Washington offense went down on Sunday. Zero trips to the red zone, zero opportunities to score after their first drive of the second half, and zero rushes by one of the more athletic quarterbacks in the league. Zero chance to hang with a team like the one they faced this weekend.
Whether by offensive coordinator Scott Turner's design, or by Heinicke's decision, the Washington Football Team offense completely nullified one of their strength's on Sunday, essentially doing part of Kansas City's job for them.
And it's just one reason they let another winnable game slip through their fingers.