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Taylor Heinicke’s interception against the Vikings an example of a mistake he must avoid


Heinicke’s INT against the Vikings, an example of a mistake he must avoid, originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Washington Commanders appeared to be heading for a fourth straight win on Sunday afternoon, but a fourth-quarter interception of Taylor Heinicke breathed new life into the Minnesota Vikings and changed the momentum of the contest.

Washington led Minnesota 17-10 with just under eight minutes left when Heinicke fed a pass past Vikings safety Harrison Smith, who returned the pass to the Commanders 12-yard line. The Vikings found the end zone two plays later to tie the game; Minnesota kicked a field goal with 16 seconds left in their next practice to freeze the game.

As grueling as the interception was, the whole debacle could have been avoided had Heinicke done two different things on the play, head coach Ron Rivera said in a conference call with reporters Monday.

The first was just throwing at Thomas in the first place.

“One thing you’d like to see him do is [to] take what’s in front of him instead of a few times he tried to try and make a big play,” Rivera said.[He] should have gone ahead and taken what he was given. Unfortunately a good example is he tried to throw the deepest ball to Logan…he had his first read with a pivot and he was open and unfortunately he tried to throw the deepest ball. “

Heinicke’s first reading, Dax Milne, was wide open on the play. Yes, there was a Vikings defender in the vicinity who probably could have prevented Milne from landing the first down, but the Commanders would still have had a manageable third to move the chains on the next play.

After the match, Heinicke himself admitted that he should have hit Milne on the pivot as well.

“We have a pivot lane on the left side and that was my first read and I’m going back to the iPad, it’s wide open so I just have to stick with it,” Heinicke said. “…A bit unfortunate but let’s get back to square one, I just gotta hit that pivot and move on.”

Once Heinicke left Milne for his second reading, Thomas was also open in midfield. Heinicke intended to give Thomas a “high ball” to fit the pigskin to linebacker Eric Kendricks, but the quarterback’s poor mechanics caused the football to slip out of his hands.

Rivera pointed out Monday that if Heinicke had set foot, the quarterback more than likely completes that pass to Thomas rather than throwing it way over his helmet.

“It wasn’t a talent limitation game,” Rivera said. “Unfortunately he threw it off his back leg. What you would like to see [do is] not in the throw, instead of having his weight back. Because if he goes in, the bullet stays down and goes into Logan. If you see him, he’s leaning back and that’s why the ball sails.”

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Throughout his two years in Washington, Heinicke won over fans with his all-in, risk-seeking style of play. When it works – evident by sound long touchdown pass Curtis Samuel Sunday – it’s a pleasure to watch. Dips, like his late-game interception against Minnesota, make you shake your head.

“The truth is, overall Taylor played well, had an opportunity,” Rivera said. “… [The interception] was unhappy, but it’s a bit indicative of him. I mean, you’re gonna get these kind of shots and when he does them, everyone gets excited. We all do. And when he doesn’t, unfortunately, that’s one of the things that attracted us.

But given the game’s situation on that specific pitch, it’s a game where Rivera and his team need Heinicke to hit the pivot route — the safest pitch — and live to see the next play.

After the game, Heinicke — who Rivera said on Monday has “brought a little spark” to the offense since entering the lineup three weeks ago — took full responsibility for his mistake.

“Me personally, no one will be harder on me than myself and that comes down to that interception on my part,” Heinicke said. “If we don’t give them a short pitch there, our defense is playing the lights. Kind of make them drive the pitch and they still have to score 10 points at that point, so that was hard to swallow. for sure. “

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