“I hear Arthur call my name,” Heinicke said. “I kind of came out and he said “you’re in.’ That’s kind of how it happened.”
Falcons starting quarterback Desmond Ridder was being examined for a concussion and the Falcons had deferred and were receiving the ball to start the second half, down 14-3 to the Titans. Heinicke came on and rallied the team, but the Falcons came up short 28-23 in a loss to the Titans on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
He led the Falcons on four scoring drives and hand the ball with a chance to make a last-ditch drive to pull out the victory, but wide receiver Van Jefferson dropped a pass on fourth down-and-1.
All Ridder could muster in the first half was a field goal and he had a turnover that gave the Titans a short field that led to a touchdown. Even though the offense moved and scored under Heinicke, the Falcons were noncommittal about making a permanent change at quarterback.
“I think we just stuck to the game plan,” Heinicke said. “Take the easy completion. Take the guy that’s open. Try to get first downs. If you get enough first downs. The next thing you know, you’re in scoring position. Once we get down there, it’s try and score touchdowns.”
The first drive on the third quarter stalled at the Tennessee 31-yard line. Younghoe Koo made a 49-yard field goal. After the defense got a stop, the second drive stalled at the Titans’ 21 and Koo added a 39-yard field goal.
The Titans answered with a 61-yard bomb to DeAndre Hopkins.
“I think the first two drives we ended with field goals,” Heinicke said. “Go back and look a film. Maybe there are some things we could have done better to score a touchdown. We moved the ball pretty good in the second half, just came up short.”
Heinicke was aware of Ridder’s situation. It was announced that Ridder cleared concussion protocol in the third quarter. Smith could have gone back to Ridder.
“That was the main reason I went out there for the (second) half,” Heinicke said. “Things were going pretty well so I think he just kind of stuck with it.”
Heinicke doesn’t believe he did enough to be named the starter.
“Oh no, this is Desmond’s team,” Heinicke said. “He’s played great throughout the year. There were a couple of hiccups here and there, but he’s progressing every week. He’s working hard. (Third-string emergency quarterback) Logan (Woodside) and I are doing everything that we can to help him in any way that we can.”
But who doesn’t want to start?
“Obviously, ultimately that’s Arthur’s decision,” Heinicke said. “(On Monday), we are going to come in and try to get better from the film and proceed as usual.”
Heinicke, who played at Collins Hill High and was a standout at Old Dominion, has carved out a niche in the NFL as a backup. He’s been with the Carolina and Washington. He spent the past three seasons with the Commanders.
“It’s the same as the last two years,” Heinicke said. “We brought in (Ryan) Fitzpatrick in Washington. He was the guy. I did everything I could to help him. You just have to stay ready as the backup. That’s your role. Then obviously the same thing last year with Carson (Wentz). This isn’t foreign territory to me.”
The Falcons told Heinicke that he was signed to be the backup quarterback. He inked a two-year deal worth up to $20 million with the Falcons in March.
“I’ve lived this the last two years,” Heinicke said. “They brought me here to backup Des and help him in any way. If he goes down for whatever reason, go in there and do that. Again, we’ll see what happens over the next week.”
Heinicke could provide the Falcons a spark. The offense has been inconsistent and entered the game ranked 29th in scoring.
“I’ve been in that position before,” Heinicke said. “I grew up a Packer fan. I grew up watching Brett Favre. The guy had a lot of passion. He had a lot of fun out there and that’s what I try and do. Go out there in the second half, have some fun and sling it around and go score some points. Again, we just fell a little short.”
How did the offense get moving so quickly.
“I mean Taylor practices every day with us,” Jefferson said. “He knows the plays and everything like that. When he came in, we knew the offense was going to run just like it did when Des was in there. We have full confidence in Taylor. He came in there and did a good job.”
Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge had a 52-yard gain off a Heinicke pass.
“We rallied together,” Hodge said. “We are praying for Des and his health, but we are trying to come together as a team in any situation no matter, who’s up or down. We just rally when we can.”