Taylor Heinicke has only made six professional starts in his NFL career, but the 28-year-old has already played against some of the league’s top quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Josh Allen.
This week is no different. Patrick Mahomes, the NFL’s top signaler, is coming to town as the Washington Football Team will host the back-to-back AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
While much of the focus this week in Ashburn will be on Mahomes’ slowing and the powerful strike in Kansas City, Heinicke said on Wednesday that Sunday’s game is not his against Mahomes.
Instead, the quarterback’s focus for this Week 6 matchup is specifically on finding the best ways to attack the defenses of the Chiefs, a unit that has struggled to start the 2021 season.
“Last year I didn’t go against Tom Brady. I went against the defense of the Bucs,” said Heinicke. “You can’t look at it like you’re playing Mahomes. “We’re going against the Chiefs’ defense. That’s what we should all understand as an attack. We just have to keep playing our game and keep executing our game plan.”
One of the many things that makes Mahomes special is his rare combination of arm talent and athleticism. He can make every throw in the book – sometimes without looking – but can also beat defenses with his legs. While he doesn’t necessarily fit the typical running quarterback label, his ability to expand plays and adapt quickly is unparalleled.
When Mahomes and the Kansas City attack take the field on Sunday, Heinicke will of course be watching. But don’t expect the Washington passerby to try and do anything to match the Chiefs star QB when he’s on the field.
“I don’t think you can pick up anything from Mahomes. He’s an incredible athlete [and] quarterback,” Heinicke said.
“I go back to the time when I was training kids when I wasn’t playing and they were trying to do Mahomes-esque things,” he continued. “I thought, ‘Listen, you’re not Mahomes. That’s something he we can’t do.’ I like to watch him play. He’s really fun to watch. But again, I’m not trying to pick up anything from his game because then I’d probably be in trouble.”
On paper, Washington is a less talented club than Kansas City. That’s no secret. With Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill on one side of the ball, the Jack Del Rio defense will have their hands full slowing down Eric Bieniemy’s attack.
However, if Washington goes down early, Heinicke has vowed not to be distracted by the scoreboard. The quarterback said Wednesday that he doesn’t want a repeat of what happened in Week 3, when he flipped the ball on a couple of plays in Buffalo trying to do too much to make a game.
“We saw that in week 3 against Buffalo. We saw how that ended. I tried to make a few plays here and there. I ended up throwing some interceptions and the game really got out of hand,” said Heinicke. “Again, it’s more about that complementary football. … It’s just playing our game, trying to move those chains and trying not to be too much.”
In order for Washington to upset the Chiefs on Sunday, it needs to score a lot of points. Fortunately for Heinicke and the offense, the Kansas City defense has been the victim of that so far this year.
The Chiefs allow 32.6 points per game, which is the worst in the NFL. Opposing offenses average 7.1 yards per game against the Kansas City defense, which is by far the league’s worst mark. In addition, the unit has already allowed 27 games from over 20 yards this season, the third largest of all clubs.
Simply put, the Kansas City defense is a unit that Heinicke and offensive coordinator Scott Turner should exploit.
Since becoming Washington’s starter mid-week 1, Heinicke has electrified an attack that needed a spark. He led Washington to two wins, orchestrating a game-winning drive in each.
Of course, Heinicke also had his growing pains. After all, he’s only made half a dozen NFL starts. He has made a number of fouls in all three of Washington’s losses, especially last week against the Saints.
But after a lesser week, Heinicke is eager to get back on the field and make the moves he knows he is capable of.
“I’m still a little pissed off about it,” Heinicke said of his outing in Week 5. “I was just using that as fuel for the next week. I came out a little bit today to practice, still a little pissed about some of those plays I made. I just used that as fuel to get better all week. Some people use different methods, but I kind of keep it with me and use it as fuel. I’ve been doing that all my career.
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