Smith is still under contract for 2021, but he turns 37 in May, so addressing the quarterback position will be an offseason priority for Washington. Heinicke made a case Saturday to at least be considered for a backup role.
Washington’s playoff win drought continues: Washington has lost five consecutive postseason games since it defeated the Buccaneers in the opening round in January 2006. While there were no fans in the stands to see Saturday’s loss, Washington still hasn’t won a home playoff game since it defeated Detroit in January 2000, a little more than seven months after owner Daniel Snyder bought the team.
Washington, which finished the regular season 7-9, became the first team to qualify for the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike-shortened season and then lose its first-round game. While Dutch Bergman remains the only coach in franchise history to lead the team to a playoff win in his first year, Washington outperformed expectations in Ron Rivera’s first season at the helm.
Tom Brady’s still got it: With ample time to throw for most of the game, Tampa Bay’s quarterback completed 22 of 40 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. The 43-year-old Brady broke George Blanda’s record as the oldest player in NFL history to throw a postseason touchdown with a 36-yard completion to wide receiver Antonio Brown in the first quarter, and also connected with wide receiver Chris Godwin for a 27-yard score.
The Bucs allowed 22 sacks during the regular season, fourth-fewest in the league, and the protection held up again Saturday. Brady was sacked three times, including twice by Daron Payne, but improved to 31-11 in the postseason.
Washington had no answer for Leonard Fournette: The Buccaneers’ wide receivers were a major reason they averaged more than 30 points per game during the regular season, but Tampa Bay proved Saturday it has a solid running game, too. With Ronald Jones sidelined with a quad injury, Fournette had a season-high 19 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown. He also had four catches for 39 yards.
Washington struggled to establish its ground game against the league’s best rushing defense. Heinicke led Washington with six carries for 46 yards, while rookie running back Antonio Gibson was limited to 31 yards on 14 carries.
Read below for highlights from the game.
Tampa Bay hangs on for 31-23 win over Washington
Taylor Heinicke gave Washington a chance, throwing for 306 yards and a touchdown, but the Buccaneers survived for their first playoff win since the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
Washington turns the ball over on downs after the two-minute warning
On fourth-and-21 from the Washington’s desperation heave down the right sideline fell incomplete. With Washington out of timeouts, Tampa Bay will escape with a win. (Tampa Bay 28, Washington 23, 1:51 left in the fourth quarter)
Bucs take 31-23 lead on Ryan Succop field goal late in the fourth quarter
Ryan Succop’s fourth field goal of the game, a 37-yarder, extended Tampa Bay’s lead to eight. Washington is out of timeouts. (Tampa Bay 31, Washington 23, 2:49 left in the fourth quarter)
Washington is still alive after Steven Sims Jr.'s TD catch cuts Tampa Bay’s lead to 28-23
Washington and Taylor Heinicke won’t go away. After being checked out in the locker room for a shoulder injury, Heinicke returned to the game and capped an 11-play drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Steven Sims Jr. on third down. (Tampa Bay 28, Washington 23, 4:51 left in the fourth quarter)
Bucs extend lead to 28-16 in the fourth quarter
Leonard Fournette capped a seven-play, 69-yard drive with a short touchdown run to give the Buccaneers a two-score lead. Taylor Heinicke is returning to the game at quarterback for Washington. (Tampa Bay 28, Washington 16, 9:11 left in the fourth quarter)
Taylor Heinicke is questionable to return with a shoulder injury
Washington’s latest drive ended with a three-and-out and Taylor Heinicke, who took a big hit on the series, headed to the locker room for further evaluation. Heinicke is back on the Washington sideline and is questionable to return with a shoulder injury. His backup is undrafted rookie Steven Montez, who has never thrown an NFL pass. (Tampa Bay 21, Washington 16, 9:17 left in the fourth quarter)
Bucs extend lead to 21-16 early in the fourth quarter
Tampa Bay got three points back with a nine-play drive that culminated in a 38-yard field goal by Ryan Succop. Daron Payne sacked Tom Brady on second-and-two from the Washington 15 before Brady threw incomplete for Antonio Brown in the flat. (Tampa Bay 21, Washington 16, 13:32 left in the fourth quarter)
Taylor Heinicke’s dazzling touchdown run cuts Tampa Bay’s lead to 18-16 in third quarter
Taylor Heinicke made sure Washington would capitalize on Tampa Bay’s first turnover. On third-and-five from the Tampa Bay 8-yard line, Heinicke dropped back to pass, ducked to avoid a would-be sack and took off to his left. Around the 4-yard line, he leaped toward the pylon and touched it with the nose of the ball before his knee hit the round, resulting in a touchdown.
Logan Thomas was stopped short on the ensuing two-point conversion. (Tampa Bay 18, Washington 16, 2:14 left in the third quarter)
Daron Payne forces fumble by Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Washington recovers
With Tampa Bay driving again, Washington forced its first turnover when Daron Payne punched the ball loose from rookie running back Ke’Shawn Vaugn. Jon Bostic recovered at the Washington 39-yard line.
Vaughn, who only had 26 carries during the regular season, has spelled Leonard Fournette tonight with regular starter Ronald Jones sidelined with an injury. (Tampa Bay 18, Washington 10, 5:53 left in the third quarter)
Washington and Tampa Bay trade punts in the third quarter
After Washington forced a three-and-out by the Buccaneers for the first time tonight, Tampa Bay’s defense returned the favor. A holding call on Brandon Scherff negated a third-down scramble for a first down by Taylor Heinicke before Logan Thomas was stopped well short of the line to gain on third-and-long. (Tampa Bay 18, Washington 10, 8:53 left in the third quarter)
Washington cuts Bucs’ lead to 18-10 with field goal on opening drive of third quarter
Washington was lucky to get points on its opening drive of the third quarter, but Dustin Hopkins drilled a 36-yard field goal after safety Jordan Whitehead had an interception on a high throw from Taylor Heinicke slip through his hands. Heinicke made a couple of nice throws on the march before his errant toss on third down, including a 29-yard completion to tight end Logan Thomas. It’s back to a one-possession game. (Tampa Bay 18, Washington 10, 11:46 left in the third quarter)
Tampa Bay leads Washington, 18-7, at halftime
Tom Brady was 12 for 23 for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, helping Tampa Bay take a nine-point lead into the break. Montez Sweat sacked Tom Brady for the first time tonight on the Bucs’ final drive of the second quarter.
Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke has played well in just his second career start. He’s 10 for 18 for 130 yards and an interception that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Washington caught a break late in the first half when Heinicke was sacked and fumbled the ball, but Washington retained possession after officials determined that there was no clear recovery.
Tampa Bay extends lead to 18-7 on short field goal late in second quarter
With six minutes remaining in the second quarter, Washington punted the ball back to Tampa Bay after cornerback Carlton Davis got away with what should have been a pass interference call on a third-down play from the Buccaneers’ 41-yard line.
Washington’s defense could have used a stop ahead of halftime, but instead allowed Tampa Bay to march right down the field. In a minor victory for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s unit, Washington forced the Bucs to settle for a short field goal by Ryan Succop after Rob Gronkowski couldn’t get his feet down on a catch in the back of the end zone. (Tampa Bay 18, Washington 7, 1:50 left in the second quarter)
Bucs take 15-7 lead in second quarter on Tom Brady TD pass to Chris Godwin
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are having their way with Washington’s defense in the first half. Chris Godwin capped a five-play drive with a 27-yard touchdown catch. Tampa Bay’s ensuing two-point conversion failed.
Antonio Brown sparked the drive, which started at the Bucs’ 39-yard line after a squib kick by Washington, with a 22-yard gain on a reverse. Brady is 8 for 14 for 131 yards and two touchdowns. (Tampa Bay 15, Washington 7, 10:03 left in the second quarter)