Updated: Oct 25, 2021
By Adam Aniba
After another let down by the defense and a gutsy offensive performance, Washington finds itself sitting at 2-2 and trailing only Dallas in the NFC East (3-1). Ron Rivera's team continues to find unconventional ways of winning, but the backyard style brand Heinicke brings to the table has kept Washington relevant. Through 4 games, Terry McLaurin has been Taylor Heinicke's unquestioned top target with 25 rec 354 yards 3 td's 14.2 per rec. In Washington's two wins over the Giants and Falcons, McLaurin shined with 17 rec for 230 yards and 3 td's.
In fact, per PFF, McLaurin is in a three-way tie for the league lead in plays of 15+ yards. This is a statistic OC Scott Turner will need more of with the defense struggling and injuries mounting on offense.
SInce McLaurin's arrival in Washington, he's caught passes from 7 different quarterbacks, but Heinicke has targeted McLaurin more than any other Washington quarterback through 4 weeks. The star receiver's 2 touchdowns grabs vs ATL helped Washington's defense overcome another disappointing performance.
On his second touchdown grab of the day, McLaurin displayed how he's always around the ball, especially when Heinicke goes into "backyard ball mode". On the play, McLaurin makes a heads-up play with with cornerback TJ Green covering him in the back of the endzone and safety Duron Harmon seemingly showing no urgency as he watched McLaurin come back to the ball for the catch.
Although the play looked like it was drawn up in the sandlot, improvisation is what makes Heinicke and Washington's offense so much fun to watch.
Washington returns home this Sunday to face the New Orlean Saints. Sean Payton's defense is currently ranked 6th in total points given up (69 pts & 17.2 pts per game) and ranks 2nd in the NFL with only 264 rushing yards given up through 4 games. The Saints had impressive wins against the Packers and Patriots, but similar to Washington, have failed to put up back-to-back wins.
Although the Saints defense has been effective vs the run, they rank 26th against the pass and have surrendered 1,133 passing yards on the season (283.2 ypg).
The injuries to Logan Thomas and Dyami Brown could put Washington in a hole during a crucial 4 game stretch before the bye week. Depending on the severity and potential games missed for the two pass catchers, it will force Heinicke to make more unorthodox plays which often involve targeting McLaurin in clutch moments. No matter how improbable the play might seem, McLaurin has displayed he's never out of the play.
The return of Curtis Samuel helped in Atlanta and should open up more opportunities for McLaurin against the Saints' secondary. But one thing seems certain; it's always must see tv when Heinicke & McLaurin are on the field.