WASHINGTON: Alex Smith threw for 296 yards and a touchdown Monday, and the Washington Football Team stunned previously unbeaten Pittsburgh 23-17, preventing the Steelers from clinching an NFL playoff berth. Washington's Dustin Hopkins kicked a 45-yard field goal with 2:07 to play and - after Jon Bostic intercepted a deflected Ben Roethlisberger pass - added another 45-yard field goal with 17 seconds remaining to seal the shocking victory.
"It was well earned. Our guys played pretty doggone good," Washington coach Ron Rivera said. "This really does rank right up there because of who we beat, in Pittsburgh. To come in and win, it was big for our guys. Real proud of them." Rallying from a 14-point deficit, the team that dropped its nickname this year over Native American racism issues improved to 5-7, winning its third consecutive game to match the New York Giants for the NFC East division lead.
The only Super Bowl champion with an unbeaten season remains the Miami Dolphins in the 1972 campaign. The Steelers fell level with reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City at 11-1 in a fight for the top seed in the American Conference and a first-round playoff bye. Roethlisberger threw second-quarter touchdown passes of three yards to Diontae Johnson and 50 yards to James Washington as the Steelers took a 14-0 lead.
But Hopkins kicked a 49-yard field goal just before half-time, and Washington marched 82 yards in 14 plays over 6:44 to open the second half, a one-yard touchdown run by Peyton Barber pulling the visitors within 14-10. Pittsburgh responded with Matthew Wright's first NFL field goal on the opening play of the fourth quarter. But Smith flipped a 15-yard touchdown pass to Logan Thomas with 9:09 to play, lifting Washington level at 17-17. Pittsburgh turned over the ball on downs at the Washington 28-yard line, and a one-handed catch by Cam Sims on a 29-yard Smith pass sparked the drive for the Hopkins go-ahead kick.
Thomas had a career-high nine catches for 98 yards, and teammate JD McKissic made a career-best 10 grabs for 70 yards. In the night's only other matchup, Buffalo's Josh Allen completed 32-of-40 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns to power the Bills (9-3) over San Francisco 34-24 at Arizona. Buffalo, which entertains Pittsburgh on Sunday, stayed a game ahead of Miami atop the AFC East division, while San Francisco fell a game back of the final NFC wild-card playoff spot. The 49ers (5-7) were forced from their home stadium by Covid-19 safety measures imposed by local government officials.
Jackson back for Ravens
In off-field news, the Baltimore Ravens activated quarterback Lamar Jackson off the COVID-19 list just in time for him to start against Dallas in a game postponed from last Thursday due to coronavirus rescheduling issues. The Ravens (6-5) hope to end a three-game losing streak at the expense of the Cowboys (3-8). The New York Jets (0-12) fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on Monday, a day after the winless club allowed a last-second touchdown pass by Las Vegas to give the Raiders a 31-28 triumph.
"I just felt like that was the best thing for our team moving forward," Jets coach Adam Gase said. Williams called for an attack of the quarterback instead of tighter pass defense and Derek Carr threw the winning touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs with 13 seconds remaining. "I obviously wasn't happy about that call," Gase added. "We can't have that happen." The Carolina Panthers, 4-8 and coming off a bye week, had eight players placed on the club's COVID-19 reserve list Monday and closed the team training facility. - AFP