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 victory.
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 Steelers, who fell to 11-1, had been 78-1-1 at home in games when leading by 14 or more points until losing to Washington.
The only Super Bowl champion with an unbeaten season remains the Miami Dolphins in the 1972 campaign.
Pittsburgh fell level with reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City (11-1) in a fight for the top seed in the American Conference and a first-round playoff bye.
The Steelers opened the scoring 4:27 into the second quarter on Roethlisberger’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson.
Washington denied the Steelers with a goal-line defensive stand, but Pittsburgh forced a punt, and on the next play, Roethlisberger connected with James Washington on a 50-yard touchdown pass for a 14-0 advantage.
Hopkins kicked a 49-yard field goal one second before half-time, and Washington began the second half by marching 82 yards in 14 plays over 6:44 for a one-yard touchdown run by Peyton Barber to pull 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 to lift Washington level at 17-17 with 9:09 remaining.
Pittsburgh turned over the ball on downs at the Washington 28-yard line, setting the stage for a drive for a go-ahead field goal by Hopkins that featured a one-handed catch by Cam Sims on a 29-yard Smith pass.
Thomas had a career-high nine catches for 98 yards, and teammate J.D. McKissic made a career-best 10 grabs for 70 yards.
The NFL’s later Monday matchup had the Buffalo Bills (8-3) facing San Francisco (5-6) at Arizona after the 49ers were booted from their home stadium by Covid-19 safety measures 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 on Tuesday 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 to 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.
In the final moments, 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. “That was a heartbreaking way for our guys to lose that game… 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 through at least Tuesday. The Panthers are set to play host to Denver on Sunday.
© 2020 AFP