LOVERRO: There’s no going back to Wentz

When I came home from the Washington Commanders game against the New York Giants, my wife asked me who won.

“No one,” I said. “It was a draw.”

“A tie?” she said in disbelief. “How does it work?”

Welcome to World Cup fever.

Apparently she wasn’t the only one wondering how this could have happened. According to various reports, the commanders left the field, wondering how this happened or what it means.

“Very strange,” said quarterback Taylor Heinicke, dressed like a character from the show Peaky Blinders.

“It feels like a loss,” he said. “Unfinished business. That’s what it feels like.”

You can understand why it felt like a loss for Heinicke (27 of 41, 275 yards, two touchdowns). After all, he led the team on a remarkable ride. Heinicke connected with a crucial fourth-down pass that was part of a 90-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to level the game 20-20.

That was such a great drive — underscored by Heinicke’s 20-yard pass to Curtis Samuel on a fourth down with four yards in front of his own 27-yard line in under three minutes and play — that he should have shown something different about it a tie.

But without the drive, it’s a loss. And Heinicke admitted that while it felt like a loss, “it doesn’t count as one. That’s the only positive thing about this game.”

Not the only positive. It added another piece to the legend of Taylor Heinicke.

He may be limited in his talent, but he’s off the charts in other areas. Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, the dressing-room top dog, said of Heinicke’s drive to the tie in the fourth quarter was “the biggest nuts I’ve ever seen.”

That’s it. It’s over. With four games left in the season, there’s no going back to Carson Wentz. It’s Heinicke who has become an icon in the dressing room. That might drive some of the fanbase crazy, but the coaches know the locker room decides who the starting quarterback is, and it’s Heinicke for the rest of the season — and maybe the playoffs.

Coach Ron Rivera told reporters Monday that he is “comfortable with Taylor and if Carson is activated he will be the primary backup.”

If you’ve listened to Rivera this season, you know Rivera is unlikely to back down when it comes to staying with Heinicke.

“One thing I’ve always done is, whoever the starter is, I’m going to commit fully to them because I don’t want them looking over my shoulder,” Rivera said earlier this fall.

And that: “He (Heinicke) doesn’t have to play well. He just has to play. We must keep doing the things we do. I don’t want to pull anyone out. I’m not trying to pull anyone.”

The Carson Wentz era is over. If Wentz was out there against the Giants’ pass rush and blitz at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, they would have taken him off the field in pieces. Heinicke’s heaviness and mobility – along with a great running game now led by Brian Robinson – covers weak pass protection.

And they can do it again in two weeks time at Ghost Town Field – the game the Commanders must win. With the Giants taking on the Eagles next week and Washington taking their bye week, the Commanders should be in good shape for the rematch.

Then again, after a 10-0 lead in Sunday’s first quarter, they were in good shape to beat the Giants on Sunday — but they didn’t.

You know why? Because you have to beat the Giants (7-4-1). They’re a strong team that won’t fold. That toughness is her identity this season. Washington is probably the more talented team – they were favored on Sunday by 2.5 points on the road.

But you know who else is tough? Taylor Heinicke. Commanders (7-5-1) may have good defense and two studs down center in Allen and Daron Payne. You can have a great running attack and run 165 meters on Sunday. But perhaps no one represents their season-to-date success more than Heinicke, who guided this team to their 5-1-1 turnaround of the season. He’s the face of it.

Do not think so? Here’s what Rivera said after the team’s win over Houston two weeks ago: “My message is that there is a solid young football team that is sort of finding its way. They’re rowdy, they’re tough, they’re misfits.”

Who does this describe?

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.


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