Taylor Heinicke was certainly not perfect. He sailed passes and he threw into double coverage. He put his receivers in some precarious positions all day long. There were passes that were nearly intercepted and dropped by Atlanta Falcons receivers.
But through it all, the scrappy kid pulled his team through with a few crazy, fluky plays and the Washington Football Team team overcame the Atlanta Falcons Oct. 3 34-30. Henicke ended the day with 290 yards, three touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 127.1, the highest for the franchise since 2017.
The defensive front four played with more cohesion, pressuring Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan; Montez Sweat got his first sack of the season. There are still miscommunications happening in the secondary including one major one that ended in Ryan hitting Cordarrelle Patterson on a wide-open touchdown in the first half. There is still much work that needs to be done with this defense. Although Atlanta receivers dropped many passes, there were a couple of big pass interference calls that gave Atlanta almost 60 yards in penalty yardage.
In the second half there was an unnecessary roughness call when WFT defensive end Chase Young hit Ryan in the neck. The play could have resulted in a sack or an interception. Instead, Atlanta gained yardage.
Sunday marked the return of big offseason acquisition Curtis Samuel, a major offseason acquisition who is expected to play a large role in the WFT receiving corps after wideout Cam Simms, and valued tight end Logan Thomas and rookie Dyami Brown left Sunday’s game with injuries.
Rookie receiver Dax Milne is likely to be activated for the Oct. 9 game with the New Orleans Saints, according to team sources who added that Sammis Reyes, a Chilean-born tight end who was a standout basketball player at Tulane, could see his first NFL action.
Another off-season acquisition emerged as a key player against the Falcons. Receiver/ kick returner DeAndre Carter jump-started the WFT offense with a touchdown on a 101-yard return of the second half kickoff and later grabbed a 24-yard pass to help sustain the game-winning drive. The third-quarter score lifted some of the pressure from kicker Dustin Hopkins who missed two extra points early in the game.
Washington’s defense still struggled getting off the field giving up 10 third-down conversions out of 16 opportunities. This is an issue confronting head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio for a defense that was supposed to be this team’s strength and facing an upcoming schedule in which the team will face Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady in three of their next four games. You don’t want to get into shootouts with the Chiefs, Packers or Buccaneers.
With Logan Thomas, Dyami Brown, and offensive lineman Brandon Scherff nursing injuries that forced them out of the Falcons game, the WFT will need all hands on deck in October. Still, figuring things out with a 2-2 record is easier than game-planning at 1-3.