Inside Washington’s 19-play drive that finished off upset over Buccaneers

Inside WFT's 19-play drive that finished off upset over Bucs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Momentum began to shift towards the visitor’s sideline early in the fourth quarter of Washington’s Week 10 home contest against Tampa Bay.

Washington, surprisingly leading Tampa Bay by 10, had possession of the football and control of the game in its hands. But, with just over 12 minutes remaining, rookie wideout Dax Milne was stripped by Lavonte David. The Buccaneers would take over possession — and just three plays later, Tom Brady would find Mike Evans for a 40-yard score to trim Washington’s lead to four.

However, Washington didn’t let the momentum flip. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke orchestrated a 19-play, 10-plus-minute drive, capped off by a one-yard Antonio Gibson touchdown run to seal the club’s biggest upset in recent memory, a 29-19 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions.

“For our offense to have the ball there, 10 minutes left, up by four. To go 19 plays and to go down there and end it like that, it’s huge for us, especially how it’s been going the last four weeks,” Heinicke said postgame.

The touchdown drive didn’t come easy, but when the offense needed a play, the group delivered.

It all started with what was said in the huddle before the drive began. Washington’s offense took the field confidently, knowing this was their game to win.

“Yeah, it was huge. You kind of rewind and Dax [Milne] had that fumble the series prior. When that happens and they go down there and score a touchdown quickly thereafter, it can get down on an offense sometimes,” Heinicke said. “I thought we did a great job of getting in the huddle and saying ‘hey, this is our game to lose. We’re still up by four. Let’s go win it right now.’ Everyone had a part in that.”

On just the third play of the drive, Washington was faced with its first test on a third-and-2. Heinicke took it upon himself to convert, rushing for three yards. Twice more the team would face a third down to keep the drive alive. Both times Heinicke’s offense would convert.

The job wasn’t finished yet, though. With just over three minutes remaining, Washington had their fourth third down to convert. Tampa Bay brought an all-out blitz, but Heinicke was able to complete a slant route to Terry McLaurin for five yards. Make that four consecutive third-down conversions.

“We called a pretty basic play: just give Terry a slant,” Heinicke said. “We had a feeling they were running Cover 0, blitzing everybody. Whenever you have a 1-on-1 with Terry, you take it. He’s a great player. He made a great catch.”

“Third down situation, we were anticipating some pressure, possibly,” McLaurin said. “But it was a play called for me to try and win the game. I’m very thankful to be part of this team and be a leader, be trusted in those situations. Taylor gave me a great ball. It was bang-bang, but it was away from me enough I could pluck the ball with my hands and try and make a play.”

McLaurin took a big shot on the completion, but he got right back up and began to pump his chest. FedEx Field erupted.

“Terry made that third-down catch, that’s a grown-man play right there,” wideout DeAndre Carter said.

Even after McLaurin’s third-down catch, the drive wasn’t over just yet. And, after three straight Gibson runs, head coach Ron Rivera had a difficult decision to make.

Washington, leading by four, was faced with a fourth-and-goal from Tampa’s one-yard line with 29 seconds remaining. A touchdown would seal the victory. A field goal would extend Washington’s lead to seven, but give Brady and the Bucs offense one last chance. And, if Washington chose to go for it and didn’t convert, a Tampa Bay touchdown would give the Buccaneers the lead.

“At the end of the day, if they get seven we go into overtime,” Rivera said. “Why not try to win it right there? Also, part of the thinking was if [we don’t score], they got to go 99 [yards] to score a touchdown. At that point, with the way we were playing, I felt pretty inspired by our guys.”

Rivera, who earned the nickname Riverboat Ron earlier in his coaching career for his tendency to take risks, rolled the dice once more. It ended up being the right call, as Gibson would find the end zone from one yard out to ice the game.

“That was a grown-man drive right there. To not give Tom Brady back the ball, that’s a big drive,” Carter said. “That’s what we’re capable of when we’re all on the same page when we’re all executing. We’ve got to build on that.”

“We came to fight today and it showed,” Gibson added.

While Washington’s locker room is overall proud of what they accomplished on Sunday, many players echoed a similar sentiment postgame: they have to build off this win. With Carolina up next, they have another chance to do just that.

“It’s a big win for us. It’s something to build off of,” Heinicke said. “The confidence going into this next week will be huge.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up