That’s no longer the case.

Heinicke gave a valiant effort on Saturday night in a 31-23 wild-card loss to Tampa Bay, completing 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and engineering a surprisingly efficient Washington offense in the second half of what finished as a one-score game.

“He took advantage of [the opportunity], did a great job for us,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “We were really fired up about giving him his opportunity today.”

Without Heinicke, it’s fair to wonder if Washington would’ve had anything more than a puncher’s chance against Tampa Bay. Washington’s usually stout defense struggled to get after Tom Brady and forced a total of just three punts on 12 possessions, giving up 31 points in a game that ended up being a higher-scoring affair than anticipated. That left Heinicke as the face of Washington’s best chance of victory, and he put together a performance Rivera called “courageous.”

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