Updated: Nov 20
By Adam Aniba
After Washington's thrilling 32-21 Prime Time upset of the once undefeated Eagles, the Commanders find themselves at 5-5 and very much in the hunt for a wildcard playoff spot with 7 games to remaining.
Once again, Washington needed the defense to step up and they delivered in a huge way, limiting the Eagles to 47 total plays while forcing 4 turnovers. They also leaned heavily on the run game, which led the way with 152 rushing yards. Most importantly, they dominated the time of possession 40:24 minutes to 19:36 minutes.
In a season where OC Scott Turner has elected to throw the ball over 70% of the time, the game plan on MNF was a clear change in philosophy.
Although Heinicke accounted for a fumble and an interception, he managed the game and made timely throws, contributing to long and sustained drives. With another pivotal matchup vs the Texans on Sunday, Rivera has a important decision to make.
Carson Wentz is reportedly close to returning, but is it a done deal that he regains his job as QB1?
Although Wentz threw for over 300 yards on two occasions this season, he's been relatively immobile, even being sacked 9 times in their previous 24-8 loss to Philadelphia.
When speaking on who'll lead lead the offense for the rest of the season, Rivera dropped the bread crumbs leading back to Heinicke. Despite paying Wentz $28 million dollars for '22, they can release him next season with no dead cap money on the books.
Heinicke Over Wentz
The first reason why Heinicke stays put as QB1 is the most obvious, his ability to keep plays alive with his feet and elusiveness is an upgrade over Wentz. One surprising play vs the Eagles epitomized this. When a bad snap flew over Heinicke's head, not only did he avoid a 20+ yard loss or potential turnover, he ran around giving himself enough time to throw the ball way.
In hindsight, this play might not stand out in fans minds, but his ability to avoid would be tacklers and get the ball back to the line of scrimmage, displayed a high degree of difficulty. It seems Turner has been reluctant to utilize designed runs with Heinicke, but that option is always available.
Second, as Rivera mentioned, Heinicke has the trust of his teammates and is loved in the locker room. Not much Wentz can do about this, considering his brief time in Washington.
These players just seem to rise to the occasion for Heincike and one of his biggest supporters in Chase Young is likely returning to the lineup this Sunday.
Lastly, Heinicke understands that getting the ball to his playmakers, in key situations is imperative. His top target has been Terry McLaurin since arriving in Washington, the two have been very vocal about their trust and faith in each other as well.
In 6 games this season, Wentz connected with McLaurin 22 times on 37 targets for 367 yards and 1TD. In comparison, Heinicke has targeted McLaurin 36 times, resulting in 24 receptions for 370 yards for 1 TD in 4 games.
If Washington goes on a losing streak, all bets are off with Heinicke keeping the job as the starter. In saying that, they have two very winnable games against the Texans and Falcons over the next 2 weeks.
Taylor will have a legit shot to go on a run and finish out the season as a the teams starting QB. Hopefully this results in meaningful football still being played deep into December.
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