Taylor Heinicke and John Bates connect on ‘Play of the Day’ vs Panthers

Sep 26, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Washington Football Team tight end John Bates (87) warms up prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Washington Football Team tight end John Bates (87) warms up prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

After watching the Carolina Panthers go on a seven-play 91-yard drive to tie the game at 21, the Washington Football Team got the ball with just under 11 minutes left in the game.

With momentum seeming to shift to the Panthers, in an emotional game with the homecoming of Cam Newton, Washington needed to answer quickly if it hoped to pull out with a win. That’s exactly what happened, as Taylor Heincke and John Bates connected for a game-changing play that put momentum back on Washington’s side for good.

After getting to midfield, Washington’s offense stalled with a two-yard loss by Antonio Gibson and then a nine-yard sack of Heinicke. After Heinicke connected with Adam Humphries for an 18-yard gain on 3rd and 21, Washington was faced with a 4th and 3 from Carolina’s 43.

A 60-yard field goal was out of the question and a turnover on downs would give momentum back to the home team. But, if you know Riverboat Ron, you knew he was going to go for it. On the fourth-down play, the win probability was tipping slightly in Carolina’s favor at 52.7%, but as fans have come to expect, Heinicke worked his magic and found Bates for a first down.

After nearly being sacked at midfield by Haason Reddick, Heinicke slips to his left, stops in his tracks, barely avoiding a sack by Jermaine Carter Jr., and throws a sidearm pass to John Bates as he gets knocked to the ground. Heinicke was able to hold the ball for close to eight seconds until someone came open.

Mark Sanchez was impressed in the broadcast booth commenting, “That was about as Brett Favre as you can get.” Not bad praise for Heinicke, who idolized Favre growing up.

So, was that exactly how Scott Turner drew it up? Not exactly!

"“Quite honestly, I forgot the play call right now,” said Heincke. “But I actually remember it breaking down and no one was open, and I was just trying to make something happen. It’s one of those deals, obviously you can’t go down or throw the ball away, you got to have it.”“And I thought John Bates had maybe the play of the day coming back and kind of catching a difficult ball. And you know, he stepped up big today, with Logan [Thomas] being out with with Ricky [Seals-Jones] being out. He played a really good game today. So, you know, kudos to him.”"

Bates not only kept the drive alive but finished the game with the second-most receptions on the team, ending the day with three catches for 23 yards.

Not only has Bates stepped up as the starting TE, but his exceptional blocking, which was one of the reasons he was drafted, has been evident in many games.

Although it doesn’t make the stat sheet, Bates has had multiple clutch blocks, including on DeAndre Carter’s touchdown return against the Falcons, on an eight-yard McKissic run against the Panthers, and a block to divert Jeremy Chinn enough for Heinicke to pick up more yardage, two plays after his big catch.

After keeping the drive alive, Washington continued to drive down the field, ending the drive with a field goal, while taking over six minutes off the clock, taking their win probability up from 47.3% on the 4th down attempt to 84% after the field goal.

With two wins in a row, Washington seems to be getting some momentum. Although some believe Heinicke isn’t the long-term answer, he sure is winning over the fanbase with his improvisational skills week after week. Call Terry McLaurin among those impressed by his quarterback.

"And when things don’t necessarily look the greatest out there with looks, he does a great job of improvising, keeping plays alive. That fourth down to John Bates was huge for us. Not too many quarterbacks are making that play to keep that play alive and keep the drive going."

Let the improvisation continue on Monday night against the Seahawks.

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