“He reminded me of Russell Wilson,” McKissic said.
This is how Washington pulled off a thrilling, come-from-behind 30-29 victory over the New York Giants on Thursday night.
2:00. First and 10. Washington 25. Heinicke pass short left to McKissic for two yards.
Coach Ron Rivera joked his message to Heinicke before the drive was, “Don’t screw it up.”
Washington opened in a five-wide set. New York rushed three and played deep zone coverage. Heinicke checked down.
1:41. Second and eight. Washington 27. Heinicke pass incomplete short right to receiver Adam Humphries.
Washington went no huddle. It had used tempo on 13 of its previous 58 plays, sparsely compared to New York (39 of 54), but Heinicke thought the offense could exploit tired defenders. In four years at Old Dominion, he’d run a hurry-up, spread offense, so he said he felt “very comfortable” with the pace.
“You can see those guys getting tired,” he said. “Some guys don’t communicate the calls on defense, so some guys aren’t in position. So, when we go tempo, we start moving the ball pretty well.”
In tight coverage just beyond the first-down marker, Humphries dropped the target. Cornerback James Bradberry, who’d just intercepted Heinicke, held his hands to his helmet, sensing a missed opportunity.
1:36. Third and eight. Washington 27. Heinicke pass short right to McKissic for seven yards.
New York rushed four and dropped everyone else at least 10 yards. Heinicke checked down again.
1:16. Fourth and one. Washington 34. McKissic right guard for four yards.
Washington traded time for security. The team didn’t want to run the ball from its own 34 with 1:16 left (or burn its last timeout), but with the Giants in light personnel and not set at the line, rushing was safer. Security cost 17 seconds.
:59. First and 10. Washington 38. Heinicke pass short right to tight end Logan Thomas for nine yards.
Heinicke, this time on a curl to Thomas, threw into another tight window.
“He was very gutsy,” Rivera said. “The thing that was really impressive with him was the way that he bounced back after the turnover.”
:39. Second and one. Washington 47. Neutral zone infraction penalty on Giants linebacker Lorenzo Carter for five yards.
The first (and not the last) time Washington benefited from a New York penalty on this drive, capping what was a sloppy game. Washington (nine, 80) and New York (11, 81) combined for 20 flags and 161 penalty yards.
:39. First and 10. New York 48. Heinicke pass incomplete short right to McKissic.
Washington stopped using no huddle. Heinicke targeted McKissic back shoulder along the right sideline, where they’d connected for a 56-yard gain earlier in the quarter, but McKissic couldn’t hang on.
:34. Second and 10. New York 48. Heinicke pass short right to receiver Dyami Brown for five yards.
Brown, a rookie third-round pick playing more with Curtis Samuel (groin) out, caught an in-breaking route with cornerback Adoree’ Jackson almost on his back. Washington used its final timeout.
Receiver Terry McLaurin, who called Brown a “star in the making,” pointed out Brown kick-started the offense in the first quarter. After two three-and-outs, Brown climbed the ladder for a 22-yard completion and the unit’s first first down.
“That was a huge play,” McLaurin said, adding, “When we made that play, we started rolling.”
Just before the next snap, New York used its final timeout. It had two extra defenders rushing off the field.
:28. Third and five. New York 43. Heinicke pass short right to Humphries for seven yards.
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner, perhaps anticipating man-to-man coverage, called a “rub route,” which is when two receivers run defenders into traffic to create separation. In this case, Thomas ran upfield while Humphries ran an out.
Rivera, McLaurin and Heinicke praised Turner’s play-calling during the final series.
“He mixed the run and the pass, the play action,” McLaurin said. “We were spitting [bubble screens] out there, crossers down the field. That's what we've been wanting [this offense] to look like.”
After the catch, enthusiastic defensive end Chase Young raced over to Humphries, pulled him to his feet, patted him on the helmet and pushed him back toward the field.
:24. First and 10. New York 36. Heinicke pass short right to McLaurin for six yards.
McLaurin ran a slant against Bradberry. Washington’s top receiver was shadowed by New York’s top corner on 83 percent of his routes Thursday, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and he caught five of seven targets against Bradberry for 47 yards and a touchdown.
This was, for McLaurin, a promising development. In their previous three matchups, Bradberry held McLaurin to two receptions and 16 yards. Bradberry knows Heinicke, Rivera and Turner well from their time with the Carolina Panthers, and he has two interceptions while matched up with McLaurin as well.
After the play, on the sideline, kicker Dustin Hopkins snagged a towel from a team staffer. He wiped sweat from his face and the inside of his helmet.
:06. Second and four. New York 30. Heinicke spike to stop the clock.
“Sometimes, you can go into the two-minute drill in practice and be like, 'Ah, we’re doing the two-minute drill,’” McLaurin said, groaning. “But when you see the result out there, and we didn’t take any negative plays. …”
:05. Third and four. New York 30. Hopkins’s 48-yard-field goal no good, wide right. Defensive offside penalty on Giants defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence for five yards.
Hopkins’s preseason struggles seemed to reappear in the biggest moment of the young season. He pushed the kick just right of the goal post, and the sideline was full of downcast eyes and pained expressions until a yellow handkerchief hit the turf. Penalties got Washington into this mess; a penalty got Washington out of it.
Upon seeing the flag, Hopkins said he told punter/holder Tress Way, “Watch this.”
:00. First and 10. New York 25. Hopkins’s 43-yard-field goal good.
Hopkins said he’s never gotten a do-over on a game-winner. He’s missed clutch kicks, and he’s hit them on plays with flags, but he’d never experienced anything quite like this.
“Can somebody out there check on my mother?” he joked. “She probably had a heart attack.”