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Who is Taylor Heinicke? Washington Football Team QB replaces Alex Smith in playoff game

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Who is Taylor Heinicke? Washington Football Team QB replaces Alex Smith in playoff game

Dwayne Haskins. Kyle Allen. Alex Smith. … Taylor Heinicke?

The Washington Football Team QB carousel was among the most intriguing stories in football this year, and that has followed them into the NFL playoffs. Heinicke, the latest backup, is starting in place of an injured Alex Smith (calf) in Washington’s matchup vs. the Buccaneers during wild-card weekend.

Though, Heinicke’s name is probably more recognizable than that of Rams quarterback John Wolford — the journeyman backup has more experience than his West Coast counterpart. Heinicke has appeared in NFL games with three different franchises, taken snaps in practice for at least four, and even spent a spell in the XFL.

Here’s what you need to know about the quarterback who’s hoping to push Washington to its first playoff victory in 15 years:

Who is Tyler Heinicke?

Heinicke — pronounced high-nah-key — is a product of Old Dominion University, where he was a four-year starter as the Monarchs’ QB. In those four years, Heinicke completed over 67 percent of his passes for 14,959 yards and 132 touchdowns.

Heinicke went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft, eventually signing a contract with the Vikings. He would go on to win the third-string job and stick with Minnesota until being released for injury in 2017. He spent about a month with the Patriots soon after that; he was eventually released in October 2017.

The journeyman backup made his NFL debut in November 2017 with the Texans, replacing an injured T.J. Yates. He completed his only pass before being checked for a concussion, ending his brief stay as Houston quarterback. The Texans waived Heinicke the following April.

Heinicke got an extended look as a member of Ron Rivera’s Panthers in 2018 after Carolina claimed him on waivers. While he appeared in six games backing up Cam Newton, he only started one, a Week 16 matchup vs. the Falcons in which he suffered an elbow injury. He completed 33 of 57 passes with a touchdown and three interceptions on the day. Heinicke was replaced by future Washington quarterback Kyle Allen. The Panthers eventually re-signed Heinicke and then released him the following August.

He found himself in the XFL in 2020 as a member of the St. Louis BattleHawks but did not see any action on the field. He once again became a free agent after the league suspended operations.

Heinicke made his return to the NFL in 2020, again playing under Rivera, but this time with Washington. He was signed to the practice squad on Dec. 8 before eventually being elevated to the active roster as Dwayne Haskins’ backup. Heinicke would replace the benched Haskins in a Week 16 matchup vs. the Panthers, completing 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s loss.

That would be his only action for the 2020 season — until Saturday night, when he got the nod for a hobbled Smith.

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Kyrie Irving’s 37-point Nets return offers positive takeaways despite loss to Cavaliers

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Kyrie Irving's 37-point Nets return offers positive takeaways despite loss to Cavaliers

In a game featuring Nets superstars Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, the best player on the floor in the second overtime period was Cavaliers third-year pro Collin Sexton.

Sexton nailed four 3-pointers in quick succession to guide Cleveland to a 147-135 win.

That’s not how Wednesday night was supposed to go down for Brooklyn after the team traded for Harden last week and Irving returned from a mysterious two-week absence. But while the Nets’ stretches of ineptitude backed up concerns about their defense following the Harden deal, their moments of brilliance should perhaps be the primary takeaway from the defeat. Brooklyn recovered from a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter to send the contest beyond regulation, at times using breathtaking passing at tempo to unlock openings.

Irving, Harden and Durant combined to net 96 points on an efficient 49.3 percent shooting clip from the field. If not for a once-a-season type of explosion from Sexton, coach Steve Nash’s squad would have likely escaped with a victory.

And mere presence of their enigmatic point guard should offer the Nets their greatest hope of cohesion moving forward.

“I’m just excited for the future,” said Irving, who spent the previous seven games away from the team for personal reasons.

MORE: Collin Sexton’s takeover wows NBA world

Four minutes into his return to basketball, Irving acknowledged the sparse crowd of about 2,000 gathered at Quicken Loans Arena and pointed to his ring finger. The venue had just given him a tribute video recounting his crowning achievement with the organization: A 2016 NBA championship won with the help of his iconic jumper over Stephen Curry. Fans offered a standing ovation.

That the Nets’ third-best player is worthy of emotional tribute videos is a testament to their absurd talent.

Another reminder of their abilities came soon after when Harden accelerated up the floor flanked by Irving to his left and Durant to his right on a 3-on-1 fast break. Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman was petrified, not knowing which all-time great shot creator to guard. He chose Harden. Harden chose Irving. Irving chose a delicious scoop off the window for two points.

These were the sequences in which everything seemed obvious about the roster. How could the group not become great?  Name the sports teams that have ever failed because of too many good players. Too many Hall of Famers. Too many centerpieces of worldwide brand campaigns.

The third quarter, though, seemingly poked holes through what general manager Sean Marks had done in shipping out big man Jarrett Allen, forward Taurean Prince, sixth-man extraordinaire Caris LeVert and so many future first-rounders for Harden. With DeAndre Jordan off the floor, the Nets struggled defending the interior. At the same time, they managed to neglect assignments along the perimeter. Even as their own offensive ball movement looked good enough, the lack of stops at the other end were concerning.

“Look, this was the first night when we’ve had everyone on the floor together,” coach Steve Nash told reporters. “This is going to be a process that takes the entire year.”

The process can only work if everyone participates.

Irving not only appearing but also scoring 37 points following his prolonged stretch away from teammates made it easier to imagine everything coming together, the glimpses shown Wednesday becoming more and more frequent until a Finals contender is born.

The Duke product, whose interest in his sport has been questioned by some people of late, showed plenty of emotion on the court as the game progressed. When he called for a pass in the corner from Durant in the fourth quarter and didn’t get it, he fist-pumped anyway when Durant drained a midrange jumper. When he was whistled for an offensive foul with 1.5 seconds left in regulation — a ruling later reversed — he reacted forcefully toward the nearest official.

Irving was the player Brooklyn needs him to be if it wants to get things figured out ahead of the playoffs.

“Two OTs in your first game back?” Irving asked rhetorically after the game. “You got to love NBA basketball, bro.”

The Nets sure hope he does.

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Bernie Sanders’ inauguration meme gets social media attention from sports world

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Bernie Sanders' inauguration meme gets social media attention from sports world

Bernie Sanders has a knack for online stardom.

The senator from Vermont is already the subject of one well-known meme — we’ll get to that in a second — and on Wednesday, thanks to his inauguration outfit, socially-distanced spot and demeanor at the Capitol, he earned another one. 

First off, props to Sanders who was sporting the same jacket from the original “I am once again asking” meme. If the jacket still fits and is in good shape from 2019, why not keep wearing it? 

So aside from the coat, he’s got a new meme thanks to a photo that popped up of the 79-year-old senator sitting in a folding chair socially distanced from everyone. He sat in said coat, with his arms crossed and warm mittens on his hands and his legs crossed — and, of course, he had on a mask. 

Following COVID-19 protocols, Sanders became a social media sensation once again and the sports world was quick to follow suit as well. 

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Collin Sexton beats Nets’ Kyrie Irving, James Harden & Kevin Durant on his own in double-OT

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Collin Sexton beats Nets' Kyrie Irving, James Harden & Kevin Durant on his own in double-OT

Collin Sexton did not dribble with the artistic flow of Kyrie Irving as he destroyed the Nets in double-overtime, but his pull-up jumpers and drives against Irving and Kevin Durant carried a lethal dose.

In the span of 1:31, Sexton scored 11 points on his own, including three 3-pointers in the face of Brooklyn defenders. He finished the game with a career-high 42 points, five rebounds, five assists and just one turnover in 38 minutes as his Cavaliers beat the Nets 147-135.

The performance came as the Nets played their first game with Irving, Durant and newly acquired James Harden on the floor together, spoiling a night in which Irving scored 37 points of his own.

MORE: Trae Young responds to Steve Nash’s criticism

Sexton, now in his third NBA season, isn’t far removed from being a rookie subjected to vitriol from his own teammates. Back then, Cavaliers veterans anonymously ripped him to the media and said he didn’t “know how to play.” He’s proving those critics wrong.

Sexton is averaging 27 points per game following his performance Wednesday night. He caught the attention of people around the NBA with the scoring outburst.

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