Commanders turn to Wentz over Heinicke for Week 17 game vs. Browns

Carson Wentz is set to start at quarterback for the Washington Commanders on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

The team on Wednesday announced coach Ron Rivera’s decision to switch from Taylor Heinicke to Wentz for what amounts to a must-win game in the NFC wild-card race.

"Where we are right now, I’m looking for a little bit of a spark, a little something different," Rivera said after practice. "The last three games we were 0-2-1, so (we are) looking for a little something extra to get us over the hump."

Wentz replaced Heinicke during the fourth quarter of Washington’s loss at San Francisco and went 12 of 16 for 123 yards and a touchdown pass. The 29-year-old with the strong arm gives the Commanders a higher ceiling than Heinicke, whose success running the offense sputtered after winning five of his first six starts.

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Rivera said Wentz’s performance against the 49ers contributed to going this direction. He thinks Wentz has a better understanding and command of the offense than his first six games with the Commanders, in which they went 2-4.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 13: Carson Wentz #11 of the Washington Commanders reacts against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

"He’s had a little bit more of an opportunity to see the rest of the offense, feel the rest of the offense," Rivera said.

This will be Wentz’s first start since Oct. 13 at Chicago when he broke the ring finger on his right, throwing hand and had surgery, landing on injured reserve. He was in uniform again and backed up Heinicke in a home loss to the New York Giants on Dec. 18.

The Commanders are 7-7-1 and can clinch a playoff spot with a win and with losses by Seattle, Detroit and Green Bay. They host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.