When the 7-9 Washington Football Team had to take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the National Football League playoffs, little did it know that its best shot at pulling off an upset would rely upon journeyman quarterback Taylor Heinicke, making just his second career start in the NFL and his first in the postseason.
And while Washington came up short, losing 31-23 at home, Heinicke's performance Saturday turned heads. He threw for 306 yards and a touchdown -- while also rushing for another score -- on 26-for-44 passing. Heinicke garnered high praise for his gutty attempt to outduel Brady, as the Bucs' QB won his NFL-record 31st playoff game, with a lot of observers convinced this game gives the well-traveled Heinicke some staying power.
You can start with the game's reigning best quarterback, Patrick Mahomes:
Regardless of the outcome what a great game by Heinicke!— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) January 10, 2021
Veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy also celebrated what Heinicke had achieved in making things close:
Taylor Heinicke needs to walk out of the stadium with his head held high!! He played extremely well!!— Gerald McCoy (@Geraldini93) January 10, 2021
Retired wideout Torrey Smith, a two-time Super Bowl champ, also was impressed:
The Washington Football Team was fun to watch this year. Coach Rivera has them going in the right direction. Shoutout to Taylor Heinicke for one hell of a performance, I've been telling y'all he belongs in this league! Until next time @NBCSWashington pic.twitter.com/zK9qYogF9Z— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) January 10, 2021
Smith was joined by retired vets such as place-kicker Lawrence Tynes and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst:
WFT regardless of the outcome here has to give this man Heinicke a little cheese and security. He belongs in the #NFL— 𝗟𝗮𝘄𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗧𝘆𝗻𝗲𝘀 (@lt4kicks) January 10, 2021
Heinicke gets to play football next year after that performance. Hell, he'll get a signing bonus. #heinicke— Charlie Whitehurst (@cwhitey6) January 10, 2021
But the ultimate in cool veteran kudos? All-time Washington great Joe Theismann, the quarterback of the Super Bowl XVII champs, chimed in:
My hats off to Taylor. You made us proud.— Joe Theismann (@Theismann7) January 10, 2021
The Old Dominion product even got some love across sports from his old stomping grounds, as the Baltimore Orioles' Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk celebrated Heinicke's performance:
Take a bow, Taylor Heinicke. That was a blast to watch. Making all of us in the 757 proud 👏👏👏— Norfolk Tides (@NorfolkTides) January 10, 2021
Not too shabby for an undrafted free agent who had to drift from the Minnesota Vikings to the New England Patriots, the Houston Texans and the Carolina Panthers -- not to mention the XFL's St. Louis BattleHawks -- since first entering the NFL in 2015, before eventually landing with Washington.