LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Football Team once more faces questions about an injured quarterback. Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick left Sunday's 20-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the second quarter with an injured right hip and did not return.
After the game, coach Ron Rivera said he did not know the severity of Fitzpatrick's injury and probably wouldn't until Monday morning. With a game Thursday against the New York Giants, Fitzpatrick's status is crucial.
Fitzpatrick is expected to have an MRI on Monday to see whether he suffered a hip subluxation and to determine the severity of the injury.
Taylor Heinicke, a fan favorite after his strong showing in a playoff loss to to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, replaced Fitzpatrick. He finished 11-for-15 for 122 yards and a touchdown. He misfired on his first two passes before finding his rhythm. At times fans in the stadium chanted, "Heinicke! Heinicke!"
"He gave us a spark when we needed it," Rivera said.
Heinicke hasn't started a regular-season game since Dec. 23, 2018. Against Tampa Bay, Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown in a 31-23 loss.
Midway through the second quarter Sunday, Fitzpatrick dropped back to pass but was leveled by linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, who beat left tackle Charles Leno Jr. to the inside. Fitzpatrick lay on the ground for a minute, then got up briefly before lying back down. As he was helped off the field, he stopped to talk to Heinicke before patting him on the helmet and going to the locker room.
Several players said they spoke with Fitzpatrick at halftime but did not know his status.
"It sucks, man," tight end Logan Thomas said. "Leader of our team and obviously he's going to be missed."
Thomas said Fitzpatrick was in good spirits when they chatted. But there has been no word on whether Fitzpatrick will have to miss time. He told Heinicke on the field that this was only the third time he has had to leave a game because of injury in his 17 seasons.
But this is a team accustomed to change at quarterback, having started four different QBs in 2020 en route to a 7-9 finish and NFC East title. Players who were here in 2019 endured three different starting quarterbacks.
"Business as usual," Thomas said. "We've been in this situation before.
"Taylor's a baller. Last year Taylor showed what he can do. We just have to move forward with whatever happens."
Heinicke found his rhythm at the start of the third quarter, completing all five passes on the first series -- including a 34-yard pass to Terry McLaurin down the left sideline. Heinicke then connected with Thomas for an 11-yard touchdown.
"When Taylor stepped in and brought some energy, that was a huge plus," Rivera said. "There is something about Taylor; that's a huge positive. It brings a little something."
Washington signed Fitzpatrick during the offseason to provide a veteran boost at quarterback. The team raved about his wisdom and leadership, but Fitzpatrick struggled against the Chargers' defense, completing three of six passes for 13 yards. He became Washington's 31st starting quarterback since the franchise won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season.
Washington signed Heinicke late last season. He was a student at Old Dominion when the team called and had not started an NFL game in two years. After the season, Washington signed him to a two-year contract. Rivera had said there would be a quarterback competition in training camp, but Fitzpatrick showed what the team wanted to see early on and a competition never truly developed. Still, Heinicke is in a far different spot than a year ago when he was out of the NFL.
"It's been a roller coaster through the last year and a half," he said.
If Heinicke must start, he does provide more ability to make plays with his legs. Fitzpatrick can still run, but Heinicke does it more and with better success. He ran three times for 17 yards and also made another play with his legs that ended with a two-handed chest pass to McLaurin for a 17-yard gain.
"You can't really work on it," Heinicke said. "It's just something in the heat of the moment. It's not like I'm scrambling in practice and doing shovel passes. I'd get yelled at for that. It's something you want to be smart with."
But plays like that excite his teammates.
"That gave us a lot of energy," cornerback William Jackson III said. "He had a little swagger about him."
Heinicke also must be smart with his scrambling, as he has been hurt in previous starts because he likes to run. His backup, if Fitzpatrick can't play, would be Kyle Allen. But those runs also are a sign of Heinicke feeling good. This also happens to be the offense he's most familiar with, having played for offensive coordinator Scott Turner in Minnesota and Carolina before joining him in Washington.
"The biggest thing is going out there with some confidence and just preparing every day," Heinicke said. "That gives you that confidence so I can go out there and play freely, knowing what we're trying to accomplish."