The Washington Football Team trails the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 18-7, at halftime. Here are three quick hits from the first two quarters.
1. Heinicke Provides A Spark
Quarterback Alex Smith’s status for Washington's game against the Buccaneers had been in the air for days when it was announced hours before kickoff that he would be inactive for the Wild Card round. That left backup Taylor Heinicke to run the offense in just the second start of his career.
There were some slipups -- like the tipped pass that turned into an interception -- but for the most part, Heinicke provided the same spark he did against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16.
Heinicke opened up the game with a deep shot to Cam Sims. It slipped out of Sims' fingers, but it showed the tone that Heinicke was going to have all game. On the possession after his interception, Heinicke led a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with his legs and his arm. He completed three of his four passes and also scrambled for 12 yards. J.D. McKissic ended the drive with a two-yard touchdown to make the score 9-7.
Washington's offense has looked efficient at times with 161 yards, but several drops hampered its overall success. Heinicke finished the half 10-of-18 for 129 yards, and he has frequently looked for chunk plays. It will need more of that production in the final two quarters.
2. Tom Brady Hits Big Plays
Tom Brady has completed 12 of his 23 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, but he was struggling early on. He completed two of his five passes on the Buccaneers' first drive, which ended in a field goal. But eventually, the Hall of Famer started to find his rhythm and made Washington's secondary pay.
Brady's first touchdown came after Heinicke's costly interception. All he needed was six plays to move 58 yards downfield; more than half of that came on his pass to a wide-open Antonio Brown, who practically walked across the goal line on a 36-yard reception. The next touchdown came on the next drive, and this time it took five plays for Brady to hit Chris Godwin in the middle of the field on a 27-yard catch-and-run.
There have been moments where the defense has played well against Brady. It limited him to a field goal after he moved the Buccaneers to Washington's 7-yard line, and it forced him to punt the ball away with less than a minute left before halftime. The unit has played well in the second half, and that trend will need to continue.
3. Defense Not Getting Pressure On Tom Brady
The biggest key to stopping the best playoff quarterback in NFL history is to pressure him, and Washington was not able to accomplish that aside from the opening drive.
With the Bucs in the red zone on their first possession, defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne both hit Brady to help force incompletions. Since then, Brady has been hit once, and he made the defense pay by completing 12 of his 23 passes for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The offense has looked better than expected with Heinicke under center, but Washington has little chance of mounting a comeback if its defense does not start getting after the 43-year-old signal-caller.