It sure didn’t look like what you’d see when imagining Tom Brady facing a 7-9 team on their fourth quarterback, but a win is a win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs topped the Washington Football Team 31-23 on Saturday in the NFC wild-card round for their first playoff victory since their 2003 Super Bowl run. They rode a vintage night from Brady in D.C. The future Hall-of-Famer finished 22-of-40 for 381 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, notching his first postseason win with Tampa Bay and his 31st playoff win overall.
Mike Evans led all receivers with 119 yards while Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin hauled in touchdowns. It was the kind of night the Buccaneers had in mind when they made the easy choice to bring in Brady, watching him connect with an elite group of pass-catchers in Bruce Arians’ offense.
However, the other quarterback stole the show.
Taylor Heinicke didn’t play like a fourth-stringer
This time last year, Taylor Heinicke was playing for the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks. More specifically, Heinicke was the backup quarterback for the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks.
One year later, he was starting a playoff game for Washington, which made the playoffs at 7-9 after cycling through Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen and Alex Smith at quarterback. With Haskins released, Allen out for the season and Smith inactive due to a calf injury, the team was left starting Heinicke.
It’s safe to say Heinicke exceeded expectations, going 26-of-44 for 306 passing yards against a stout Buccaneers defense. The highlight of his night came on the ground, an 8-yard touchdown scramble in which the 27-year-old went fully horizontal while hitting the pylon:
Washington won’t remember Saturday’s game as a triumph, but it was that for Heinicke, who showed he has a place in the NFL come next season.
What’s next for Buccaneers?
The Buccaneers will move onto the NFC divisional round, where a meaningful matchup awaits for Brady no matter how Sunday shakes out.
It will either be the Los Angeles Rams, a Super Bowl LIII rematch for Brady, or the New Orleans Saints, which could represent the first, and last, time Brady and Drew Brees meet in the playoffs.
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