The Washington Commanders have a two-game winning streak following their comeback victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. They were the opposite of attractive, only three or four teams in the NFL are playing elite football on a weekly basis. And winning ugly is just fine when you have a QB like Taylor Heinicke who doesn’t let the ugly define their performance.
Heinicke’s start to the game was repulsive. The pick-six was fully deserved as he could’ve been intercepted four or five times before the score. He also fumbled on a scramble that the Packers returned for a touchdown. Luckily, though, it was called back due to a tacky illegal touching penalty in the secondary.
It’s unclear when the switch flipped on for Heinicke, but his second half performance was indicative of a player who needed to shake off some rust after sitting on the bench for the first six games. That still doesn’t excuse some of his decision-making, but you hope he’ll rectify that with more reps under his belt.
When Heinicke was named the starter, fans surmised the offense would look better than it did before Carson Wentz got injured. For anyone hesitant to buy into that notion, Sunday proved it’s highly possible.
The reason for that? Heinicke loves throwing to Terry McLaurin.
The Commanders’ offense won’t skip a beat if Taylor Heinicke continues making Terry McLaurin a focal point.
"“For [Heinicke] and I to be able to connect on some big plays — for him to have the trust in me just to put the ball around me and make a play — that’s all I ever wanted as a receiver,” McLaurin said. “I’m very fortunate to be in a situation where all my teammates come to me on the sideline like ’17, we need one. You’re the guy to make the play.’ I just want to continue to earn that respect and make those plays.”"
McLaurin didn’t have his most productive game of the year statistically speaking, but it was undoubtedly his most impactful. Heinicke targeted McLaurin eight times and the $71 million receiver finished with five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. All five of those catches were absolutely massive and it started with the 37-yard score that gave the Commanders an unexpected third quarter lead.
In the fourth quarter, Washington took over with three minutes remaining and a chance to milk the rest of the clock. In a sight for sore eyes, Scott Turner didn’t play the conservative card. He trusted Heinicke to put the nail in Green Bay’s coffin and the QB did what any smart QB would do: target his No. 1 receiver.
On second down, Heinicke and McLaurin connected for a 14-yard gain to keep the clock moving on a fantastic grab by No. 17. Three players later, Heinicke threw up a prayer to McLaurin on third down with a chance to put the game on ice.
There was only going to be one outcome.
Commanders fans have been on their knees begging for McLaurin to have a bigger role. Over the first six games, the superstar talent averaged six targets, and topped more than five catches and 100 receiving yards just once.
Whether that was a Wentz issue or play-calling/scheme problem — perhaps a combination of both — Heinicke flipped the script in his first start despite the fact McLaurin locked horns with a premier cornerback in Jaire Alexander.
It’s no surprise that Commanders offense came to life in McLaurin’s biggest game of the season. Assuming Heinicke continues looking Terry’s way, Washington’s offense will be just fine — perhaps even more productive — with Heinicke running the show while Wentz recovers from finger surgery.