LANDOVER, Md. — Tom Brady was ready to pull off another dramatic comeback. Taylor Heinicke never gave him the chance.
Heinicke and the Washington Football Team pulled off one of the season’s more improbable victories, knocking off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29-19 on Sunday.
“We were more desperate than Tampa Bay was,” safety Bobby McCain said. “We knew it, and they knew it. As you can tell, they came out kind of flat.”
There was nothing casual about Brady’s reaction to the loss. In the ultracompetitive NFC, it may have cost the Bucs a chance at home-field advantage in the playoffs, and he had little to say in a terse 2-minute press conference after the game.
Brady on the game: “I like to win.”
Receiver Mike Evans on the game: “I know we’re a better team than them, and we didn’t get the job done.”
Brady on his two interceptions: “We started with the ball. They came away with it.”
The star’s frustration stemmed in part from how Washington won — by denying him the opportunity to be Tom Brady.
With 10:55 remaining, the Washington offense took over, leading by 4 points. It methodically racked up first downs and bled the clock, ultimately going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, where Antonio Gibson scored a touchdown to seal victory.
The 19 plays Washington ran made it their longest drive since at least 2000. The 10 minutes, 26 seconds that ran off the clock was the second-longest by the team during that span.
It was extended by a handful of key plays, none bigger than a catch by receiver Terry McLaurin on third-and-5 from Tampa’s 15-yard line. Heinicke was blitzed and had to trust McLaurin would be in his spot. McLaurin was, and he held on to the ball despite being walloped by the Bucs defenders.
“That’s a grown-man play right there,” fellow receiver DeAndre Carter said.
Gibson, the drive’s other star, made a commitment to the run game pay off at a crucial time.
“I’m happy it was cold today,” offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas said of the 10-minute march. “It would have been hell if it was 90 degrees out.”
And just when it seemed Heinicke’s remarkable story might be losing steam, he authored an efficient, no-turnover outing that will keep him under center for another week.
He got choked up thinking about it after the game.
“It’s the moment I dreamt of last year when I wasn’t playing,” he said. “I always told myself that if I get another chance to play, I’m going to go out there and do something great.
“So for me to go out there and do that today, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a dream come true. And it’s something you just want to keep doing.”
For the first time in a while, it was also a fun outing for Washington’s defense.
McCain said the team was itching for a fight, and it found one early, when Tampa won the coin toss and opted to receive, counter to traditional NFL wisdom.
“That lets you know, defensively, like, they don’t think you’re worth an [expletive].”
Instead, Washington’s coverage held consistently for the first time all season, allowing Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne to do what they do best and force the quarterback into throwaways and bad decisions.
“One thing I was really pleased with was the inspired play of the secondary,” coach Ron Rivera said.
Washington also may have found its solution at kicker, as Joey Slye (Virginia Tech) booted three field goals and two extra points without missing.
With the win, Washington breathes new life into a stagnant season. At 3-6, the Football Team probably won’t have to worry about rearranging any February plans, but a year that started full of hope now continues with the potential for late-season improvement that can set the table for future success.
It was noted to Heinicke that he seems to be at his best in the most emotional games — against Brady, a homecoming in Atlanta, and a trip to Lambeau Field. But what about next week in Charlotte?
Well, the Panthers may have solved that problem by bringing back Cam Newton and setting the stage for an emotional Sunday with him and Rivera both returning to town.
“He’s like, the God of Charlotte,” Heinicke said of Newton. “Everyone loves that he’s back there and the crowd’s going to be rocking.
“So it’s going to be a fun one.”
Tampa Bay 0 6 7 6 — 19
Washington 6 10 7 6 — 29
Was—FG Slye 46, 9:57.
Was—FG Slye 28, 5:56.
Was—Carter 20 pass from Heinicke (Slye kick), 12:21.
TB—FG Succop 25, 6:44.
Was—FG Slye 29, :58.
TB—FG Succop 31, :00.
TB—Brate 6 pass from Brady (Succop kick), 8:46.
Was—Gibson 1 run (Slye kick), 4:21.
TB—Evans 40 pass from Brady (kick failed), 10:55.
Was—Gibson 1 run (run failed), :29.
Rushing–Tampa Bay, Fournette 11-47, Bernard 1-4, Brady 1-2. Washington, Gibson 24-64, Heinicke 3-15, Patterson 4-7, Carter 1-4, McKissic 2-4.
Passing–Tampa Bay, Brady 23-34-2-220. Washington, Heinicke 26-32-0-256.
Receiving–Tampa Bay, Fournette 8-45, Godwin 7-57, Johnson 3-17, Evans 2-62, Darden 1-29, Brate 1-6, Bernard 1-4. Washington, McLaurin 6-59, McKissic 4-35, Carter 3-56, Seals-Jones 3-30, Bates 3-25, Milne 2-22, Gibson 2-14, Sims 2-10, Humphries 1-5.