With so many people on Washington's side needing to be highlighted for their contributions in Monday's win over the Steelers — from Alex Smith to Montez Sweat to Cam Sims to Logan Thomas to Scott Turner to Jack Del Rio — it'd be easy to forget about Dustin Hopkins.
Don't forget about Dustin Hopkins.
In the upset, Hopkins nailed all three of his attempts, and those three makes came from 49, 45 and 45 yards. That sort of distance is the exact range that almost cost the specialist his job.
Before Week 13, Hopkins was just 6-of-10 when lining up for tries in the 40s. Now, things are looking much better thanks to his perfect evening in Pittsburgh.
On Tuesday, NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay asked Ron Rivera for his reaction to Hopkins' performance. While giving his thoughts, Washington's coach brought up the name of someone fans know quite well.
"It's interesting. I was with Graham Gano [in Carolina]," Rivera told Finlay. "Graham set the record one year, and then the next year he was off, then he came back and had a really good year in 2017. So, you see that with kickers — they're going to have these moments when things happen."
The record Rivera mentioned is the Panthers' franchise mark for most points in a single season, which Gano achieved in 2015. In 2016, though, Gano saw his field goal percentage dip by almost five percent and his extra point percentage drop by more than three. It's not like he was dreadful, but he did regress.
Even so, the club brought him in for another campaign in 2017, and he was damn near perfect, going 29-of-30 on his three-pointers and 34-of-37 on his PATs.
"If you're patient with these guys and trust them, they're going to reward you," Rivera said.
Rivera applied that patience when it came to Hopkins, who missed one kick in seven of Washington's first 10 outings. He considered finding competition at one point but never went as far as to actually do so. And in his last two contests, Hopkins is 5-for-5 on field goals and 7-for-7 on extra points.
"I was very happy for him," Rivera said about the veteran's night against the Steelers. "I was very pleased with the last couple of weeks, to be honest with you. He's really stepped his game up, his focus has been excellent in practice."
Rivera could've very easily split with Hopkins recently and there wouldn't have been much questioning that move. Yet he didn't, and Hopkins is now back to splitting the uprights. Funny what happens when a coach believes in his guy, huh?