The Washington Football Team went to Pittsburgh to take on the 11-0 Steelers and just about everybody in the NFL expected a blowout. Or certainly the home team to remain unbeaten.
That never happened. And now the Steelers' have a loss on their record. Washington delivered its most impressive win of the season. Hell, if Ron Rivera turns this team around and years from now Washington becomes a perennial playoff team, the coach can point to this win in Pittsburgh as a turning point for the franchise.
How'd they do it? It wasn't easy, but it was a huge win.
- Washington's defense played their best game of the season, holding Pittsburgh to just 17 points and forcing a key interception late in the fourth quarter. Ron Rivera's defense has been trending the right way for weeks but doing it to the Steelers shows significant development. Pittsburgh was completely ineffective rushing the ball, gaining just 21 yards on the ground.
- Comeback kid: Alex Smith played maybe his best game in Washington, and that was after taking an inadvertent kick to the shin that resulted in a serious cut that left him bloody. Don't worry - it wasn't the broken leg that kept Smith out of the league for two years. Smith completed passes to six different pass catchers and hung in the pocket to take a huge hit on a touchdown throw to tight end Logan Thomas that tied the game in the fourth quarter.
- Thomas and Sims: Logan Thomas and Cam Sims were monsters on Monday. Thomas had a career game - nine catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. He was fantastic. Sims was incredible too, particularly on a one-handed grab that got Washington into scoring position late in the fourth quarter. Sims finished with five catches for 92 yards. Running back J.D. McKissic also played a key role. He grabbed 10 catches for 70 yards and made a number of important grabs to convert third downs.
Ron Rivera's career record is best in December, and maybe the coach saved his best for the last month of the season. What a resilient win. Truly impressive. Now Washington is back at 5-7 and even with the New York Giants atop the NFC East and - believe it or not - just one game out of the No. 7 spot in the NFC wild card race.