While the quarterback of the losing squad garnered all the attention in Carolina on Sunday, the winning signal-caller enjoyed a brilliant game.
"I think the biggest thing he is doing is he is starting to see things," coach Ron Rivera said of Heinicke, via the team's official transcript. "He is starting to see what he needs to see. He is throwing the windows he needs to throw. We are getting healthy up front. Now, we have got a couple of nicked guys. We got to get those guys back on the football field, but I think that is all a part of it as well.
Heinicke, who spent one year in Carolina in 2018, went 16-of-22 passing for 206 yards and three TD passes on the day for a 141.3 passer rating. It marked the 28-year-old's second game this season with at least three passing TDs, no interceptions and a 120-plus passer rating. Only two other Washington QBs have put up more such games in a season (Kirk Cousins: 5 in 2015, Joe Theismann: 3 in 1983).
The most impressive part of Heinicke's performance was that it came against the NFL's top-rated pass defense entering Week 11. This wasn't some slappy unit the QB carved up.
"For Taylor, this was really about taking what was there," Rivera said. "We were able to run the ball well. We were patient. Taylor was patient. A couple of times too patient. I think I'd like to see him throw it away instead of take the sack. He played a good football game. He really did."
Perhaps the game's biggest play came on fourth-and-3 midway through the fourth quarter after the Panthers had tied the score at 21. Heinicke dodged a sack, escaped the pocket, avoided another defender, and found tight end John Bates for the first down before being yanked to the ground. Later on the drive, the QB ran for 14 yards on a bootleg on second-and-12 to set up the go-ahead field goal.
"Those kinds of plays are just like backyard football," Heinicke said of staying poised when the play broke down. "You just try to make something happen. You try to find a little opening or a little leverage on somebody and give a guy a shot. I remember doing that stuff as a kid out in the backyard at halftime of a Packer game, so it's just one of those deals."
Heinicke certainly has some Brett Favre in his game. On Sunday, the gunslinger made plays against a very good defense.
"You can tell he has a rhythm out there," wideout Terry McLaurin said. "He's very comfortable with the guys out there. He's comfortable with the play calling from (OC Scott) Turner. When things don't necessarily look the greatest out there with looks, he does a great job of improvising and keeping plays alive. With that fourth down to John Bates, that was huge for us. Not too many quarterbacks are making that play to keep that play alive and keep that drive going. I think he's doing a great job of running when he has to run. Making the throws when he needs to, running the offense. I think one thing that can't be understated is the way he's taking care of the football. I think that's extremely important, especially if we want to keep this thing going down the stretch."
Back-to-back impressive games against the Buccaneers and Panthers pushed Washington to 4-6 and kept it in the postseason hunt in a wide-open NFC wild-card race.