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It was the hardest catch of Terry McLaurin’s young career. You know, that catch.
The Washington Football Team was searching for a spark as it opened the second half of its season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. So, it only made sense for Heinicke to turn to his best wideout in McLaurin.
The throw, Heinicke admitted Tuesday, could have been better, but with a guy like McLaurin, who had 2,037 receiving yards heading into the 2021 season, he can get away with passes being a little off-target. The nearly 53,000 fans at FedExField saw the result of McLaurin's 34-yard acrobatic catch, but the events that led up to it show why Terry is so scary.
"Those are the types of plays that change momentum," McLaurin said. "I was fortunate enough to be able to make that play for our team."
The play was one that Washington has been running in practice for a while. McLaurin, who was lined up on the left sideline, ran the route in a way he felt Heinicke could put the ball where it needed to be. Chargers cornerback Michael Davis was playing with hard outside leverage, so McLaurin made it look like he was running a slant route to draw Davis inside.
It was when McLaurin turned upfield that Davis started to hold him, which he knew was going to happen. It also didn't have much of an effect on McLaurin, who had gained about three yards on Davis by the time Heinicke unloaded the throw.
McLaurin saw the throw wasn't going to hit him in stride; it was actually traveling off to the left and out of bounds. He started to track the ball -- an area of his game he worked on in the offseason -- and as the ball drew closer to him, he leaned back before leaving his feet.
The ball slipped through the hands of Nasir Adderley, who made a move on the pass from the safety position, and into McLaurin's. He thought he was out of bounds, but he managed to keep enough of his body in place for the catch to count. After the game was over,
Kyle Allen asked McLaurin knew the defender was there. McLaurin's response: "What defender?"
"I was so focused on the ball that I didn't even know he was there," McLaurin said Tuesday.
The play went down as a 34-yard completion, but it was a shot in the arm for Washington's offense. A handful of ticks later, Heinicke found Logan Thomas in the end zone to give Washington a 16-13 lead.
Heinicke didn't see the catch firsthand -- he was on the ground with an offensive lineman in front of him -- but when he watched it on social media after the game, he thought it was "unbelievable."
"That's something that Terry brings to the table," Heinicke said. "He's dynamic, he's a playmaker, so it's a lot of fun watching him run routes and catch the ball."
McLaurin finished the day with four catches for 64 yards, more than half of which came from the improbable grab. His performance wasn't enough to lift Washington past the Chargers in Week 1, but it wasn't a shabby start for McLaurin in Year 3.
"That was great for our offense," McLaurin said. "Hopefully we can keep that going."