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New Orleans Saints defense faces another elusive quarterback in Washington's Taylor Heinicke

'If he doesn't see something, he's looking to scramble and keep the play alive'

The New Orleans Saints return home to take on the New York Giants in Week 4 on October 3, 2021 at the Caesars Superdome.
The New Orleans Saints return home to take on the New York Giants in Week 4 on October 3, 2021 at the Caesars Superdome.

The example provided wasn't an exact duplication, but it was close enough to be useful for the New Orleans Saints defense.

Attempting to corral and unsettle New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones proved to be a taller order than the Saints could fill in their last game, a 27-21 overtime loss to the Giants. Jones passed for 402 yards and two touchdowns on 28 completions, and ran for 27 yards on four attempts (not including a successful two-point conversion run).

Next up for the Saints (2-2) is the Washington Football Team (2-2) and quarterback Taylor Heinicke, on Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. And Heinicke offers some of the same traits – elusiveness to run or to extend a play – that Jones possesses.

"There'll be some zone-read stuff, some quarterback built-in stuff," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "I do think there's a – I don't want to use the word 'comparison' – but certainly a guy that's very comfortable eluding and someone that can make plays with his feet. So I would say there are some similarities that way."

And, similarly, Heinicke led his team to a victory last Sunday, a 34-30 road win against Atlanta. In that game, Heinicke completed 23 of 33 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, and ran five times for 43 yards. Washington overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter by scoring the game's final 12 points, including Heinicke's game-winning, 30-yard touchdown pass to running back J.D. McKissic with 33 seconds left.

"He's a tough player," said Saints rookie linebacker Pete Werner, who had 10 tackles, and a tackle for loss, against the Giants. "He's very tough. He keeps plays alive. If he doesn't see something, he's looking to scramble and keep the play alive. He finds his receivers well. He's played well so far, doesn't give the ball over that much but very competitive, tough guy. He can keep things going."

"He has a chance to make these explosive plays happen, as you saw on the Atlanta tape last week," defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "For as much as he's exposed, he's also making explosives. So you have to be aware of who you're playing against every week, and this week is no different."

Heinicke has been outstanding in Washington's two victories (57 of 79 for 626 yards and five touchdowns, with an interception, nine rushes for 49 yards and just two sacks taken, for minus-16 yards). In his loss as a starter (the other loss, he entered after an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick), he completed 14 of 24 for 212 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions, was sacked once and ran for 21 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

"He gets out. He scrambles," said safety Marcus Williams, who has two of the Saints' seven interceptions this season. "If we contain him and keep him in the pocket and make him make those hard throws, we cover him and lock him up."

For the hard throws, Heinicke mainly relies on receiver Terry McLaurin (25 catches on 38 targets, 354 yards, three touchdowns). McLaurin has had 190 straight targets, and 128 consecutive catches, without a drop.

"He catches the ball," Williams said. "He's a play-maker. He goes against the ball, he runs deep routes and he catches the ball pretty well."

But it begins with Heinicke, who will pose several problems that the Saints will attempt to solve.

"There's guys that you've got to keep contain, like this quarterback," Werner said. "Because he'll move around, he'll extend and make big plays."

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