By Mark F. Gray
Special to the AFRO
There were no reports of UFO sightings in Landover, MD Sunday afternoon, but there was an unexplained phenomenon. The Washington Football Team beat the NFL world champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady 29-19.
Washington won despite losing Chase Young to a season ending knee injury and could have wilted during another Brady master class on the theatrics of the second half comeback. However, as fall made its first appearance at FedEx Field it was the will of the offense that came of age.
Taylor Heinicke played with the confidence of a quarterback who had been waiting for another chance to beat the G.O.A.T. once again. Heinicke had already cut his teeth dealing with the pressure of facing the legend on the other sideline after his debut in last year’s NFC wildcard playoff game that Brady won on the way to his sixth world championship.
Heinicke made his name and earned his contract that day by giving them a chance to win last January’s start against the Buccaneers during the playoffs. He finished the game 26 of 32 passing for 256 yards and also rushed for 15 yards.
Heinicke capitalized on two second half scoring opportunities and hooked up with DeAndre Carter for a 20-yard touchdown pass. He led a 71-yard drive in the third quarter which was extended by a pass interference penalty. That set up Antonio Gibson’s first touchdown run and set the tone for the second half dominance.
On this Sunday, he was better than Brady was and there was no doubt. The six time Super Bowl champion had his moments of brilliance, but it was the courage and poise of Heinicke that helped them rally from another week of futility.
Brady finished 23 of 34 for 220 yards with two touchdowns, but threw two interceptions as he did in the loss to New Orleans, which sent them into their bye week. He made spectacular plays, but not enough to sustain Tampa as Washington’s confidence grew despite the injury list that kept getting longer. TB-12 threw TD passes to Cameron Brate and Mike Evans. The 40-yard strike to Evans pulled the Buccaneers’ deficit to 23-19.
Brady (TB-12) was made uncomfortable by a Washington defense that produced interceptions on two of his first six throws — one off the hands of rookie Jaelon Darden and another that was caught by safety Bobby McCain. They held the NFL’s best scoring and passing offense, without a first-half touchdown for just the fifth time in the past two seasons.
Meanwhile, Heinicke was clutch, especially in the second half. He led them on a 71-yard drive in the third quarter. He connected with Andre Carter for a beautiful over the shoulder catch for a 20-yard TD pass which made a statement after the Bucs scored.
Things came together in the fourth quarter as Tampa Bay’s defense couldn’t stop Washington’s offense on the decisive final time consuming drive. Coach Ron Rivera lived up to his “Riverboat Ron” moniker on fourth-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 1-yard line with 31 seconds to go and Antonio Gibson’s second touchdown run of the day put the game away for Washington.
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