Taylor Heinicke's playoff performance earns respect from NFL peers, sports world

When the 7-9 Washington Football Team had to take on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the National Football League playoffs, little did it know that its best shot at pulling off an upset would rely upon journeyman quarterback Taylor Heinicke, making just his second career start in the NFL and his first in the postseason.

And while Washington came up short, losing 31-23 at home, Heinicke's performance Saturday turned heads. He threw for 306 yards and a touchdown -- while also rushing for another score -- on 26-for-44 passing. Heinicke garnered high praise for his gutty attempt to outduel Brady, as the Bucs' QB won his NFL-record 31st playoff game, with a lot of observers convinced this game gives the well-traveled Heinicke some staying power.

You can start with the game's reigning best quarterback, Patrick Mahomes:

Veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy also celebrated what Heinicke had achieved in making things close:

Retired wideout Torrey Smith, a two-time Super Bowl champ, also was impressed:

Smith was joined by retired vets such as place-kicker Lawrence Tynes and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst:

But the ultimate in cool veteran kudos? All-time Washington great Joe Theismann, the quarterback of the Super Bowl XVII champs, chimed in:

The Old Dominion product even got some love across sports from his old stomping grounds, as the Baltimore Orioles' Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk celebrated Heinicke's performance:

Not too shabby for an undrafted free agent who had to drift from the Minnesota Vikings to the New England Patriots, the Houston Texans and the Carolina Panthers -- not to mention the XFL's St. Louis BattleHawks -- since first entering the NFL in 2015, before eventually landing with Washington.