Taylor Heinicke's improvisation is keeping plays, and WFT's season, alive

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Heinicke's improv is keeping plays, and WFT's hopes, alive originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

In back-to-back postgame interviews with NBC Sports Washington on Sunday in Atlanta, Terry McLaurin and DeAndre Carter were both asked the same question: What's it like to share an offense with Taylor Heinicke?

The pair of receivers produced almost the exact same answer.

"You never know what you're going to get, but you know it's going to be good," McLaurin told JP Finlay. "He's going to give you opportunities. He picked us all up today. He wasn't perfect, but when we needed him the most, he made plays."

"You never know what you're going to get from Taylor," Carter said when it was his turn. "He's going to run around back there, he's going to make plays, and us as receivers got to make sure to find the holes, scramble drill, find a way to get open for him."

Those responses represented the latest instances where Heinicke's teammates marvel at the quarterback's ability to find a way — any way — to keep plays and drives alive.

And that special talent of his is also currently keeping Washington's season alive.

The Burgundy and Gold's defense continued its disturbing decline against the Falcons in Week 4, as they allowed the hosts to convert on 10 of 16 third-down chances and Matt Ryan to chuck four touchdowns at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The club's special teams, meanwhile, both stepped up enormously (DeAndre Carter's kickoff return was even better on a second watch) and harmed the overall effort (Dustin Hopkins' two missed PATs made the eventual comeback all the more difficult).

Heinicke, however — along with McLaurin, Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic — was able to overcome those issues to notch his second absurd victory of the past three weeks. 

"He's incredible," Carter said.

After Heinicke's first truly poor effort for the franchise in Buffalo, Ron Rivera declared that he wanted his starter to be much smarter with his decisions moving forward. And while the quarterback still took some hold-on-tight-and-hope-for-the-best risks, he was turnover free in Atlanta and much sharper when it came to scrambling and finding outlets when he had to.

Then — like a pitcher who knows when it's time to reach back and light up the radar gun — Heinicke understood when it was necessary to, as FOX commentator Mark Sanchez put it, become "the ultimate street football player," most notably in the fourth quarter.

Now, his two touchdowns to McLaurin and McKissic in the final minutes won't be used to teach the youth of America how to calmly execute as a signal caller, but as far as being creative and clutch, those two clips are tremendous examples of those qualities.

"We always have a chance to win," Rivera said about Heinicke's presence.

At 2-2, Washington faces a toss-up affair with the Saints this coming weekend before meeting teams quarterbacked by Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in contests after that. That slate of foes highlights how crucial it is that the defense gets its act together.

With how Heinicke's going, though, maybe the defense only has to become an average unit, which is frustrating to say about a previously-hyped crew that ought to be capable of elite performances yet is also just the reality of the situation. Right now, Heinicke's creating a feeling that, as long as the score is close near the end, he's going to deliver when it matters.

"I’ve been doing those plays throughout my life," Heinicke said. "That’s kind of the player I am."

That's a very confident statement, but at this point, who's going to doubt him?