NFL: Washington ends Pittsburgh’s perfect season; Josh Allen throws for 4 TDs, Bills beat 49ers
The Pittsburgh Steelers spent three months flirting with perfection, insisting all the time they were far from flawless.
They weren’t wrong. Pittsburgh’s bid for an unbeaten season is over. Washington’s bid for an unlikely division title may just be beginning.
Alex Smith threw for 296 yards and a touchdown, Dustin Hopkins kicked a tiebreaking 45-yard field goal with 2:04 remaining, and Washington beat the Steelers 23-17 on Monday night.
Pittsburgh (11-1) missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth and dropped into a tie with defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City for the top spot in the AFC with four games remaining. A day after the New York Giants pulled an upset in Seattle, Washington (5-7) kept pace by rallying from 14 points down to win in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1991.
Washington won the Super Bowl that season. The club’s expectations this year are far more modest in Ron Rivera’s first season as coach.
Not so in Pittsburgh, which got off to the best start in the franchise’s 87-year history even as the offense occasionally worked in fits and spurts. In a game pushed back a day due to a COVID-19 outbreak that forced the NFL to re-schedule Baltimore’s annual visit to Heinz Field three times, the little mistakes Pittsburgh managed to get away with for 11 games became too much to overcome.
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns, but was picked off by Jon Bostic — a former Steeler — with 1:59 remaining. Hopkins added another 45-yard field goal to help close it out.
Pittsburgh reached midfield on its final possession but time ran out.
The Steelers appeared to be in firm control after Roethlisberger found James Washington for a 50-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put them up 14-0. Pittsburgh is normally invincible at Heinz Field when up two scores. Not this time.
Smith, under heavy pressure much of the night, finally got something going late in the first half. A Hopkins field goal got the team on the board in the final seconds. A 1-yard touchdown run by Peyton Barber midway through the third quarter pulled Washington within 14-10, and a lob from Smith to a wide-open Logan Thomas for a 15-yard touchdown tied it.
Pittsburgh drove into field goal range but rather than have fill-in Matthew Wright — promoted from the practice squad due to an injury to Chris Boswell — attempt a 45-yard field goal into the open end at Heinz, the Steelers went for it. Roethlisberger’s heave to rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. fell incomplete and Smith calmly drove Washington 45 yards in nine plays to set up the winning score.
Bills 34, 49ers 24
Josh Allen threw for 375 yards, tied a career high with four touchdown passes and the Buffalo Bills stayed in sole possession of first place in the AFC East with a 34-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.
Buffalo (9-3) moved a step closer to winning its division for the first time since 1995 thanks to a nearly flawless performance from Allen. The 24-year-old quarterback was stellar against the 49ers, completing 32 of 40 passes with no interceptions.
He threw touchdown passes to Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, Isaiah McKenzie and Gabriel Davis as the Bills built a 17-7 halftime lead and controlled the majority of the second half.
The Bills are one game ahead of the Miami Dolphins with four games left for both teams.
San Francisco (5-7) lost in its first game at its adopted home in Arizona. The 49ers will be based in Glendale for at least the next three weeks after Santa Clara County issued strict new coronavirus protocols that forced the team to find a temporary new home.
It was Allen’s fourth game of the season with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, which set a franchise record. Jim Kelly did it three times in 1991 and Drew Bledsoe three times in 2002.
The Bills had a much more pleasant trip to the desert than three weeks ago, when they lost a 32-30 heartbreaker to the Arizona Cardinals. That was the game when DeAndre Hopkins made a stunning catch over three Buffalo defenders with 2 seconds left for the game-winning score.
San Francisco has had several recent injuries at its slot cornerback position and struggled to cover Beasley, who had a career-high 130 yards receiving on nine catches.
State Farm Stadium — which is home to the division-rival Arizona Cardinals — was dressed up to make the 49ers feel slightly more at home. There were San Francisco banners hanging on the walls along the sidelines and the videoboard showed Niners highlights and flashed messages like “Faithful to the Bay.“
The teams traded goal-line stands in the first quarter.
The Bills opened the game with a 74-yard drive that was stopped at the Niners 1 after Allen’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete. San Francisco responded with a 97-yard drive that ended at the Buffalo 2 when Jeff Wilson Jr. was stuffed for no gain on fourth down.
It was just the second game since 2000 that featured two turnovers on downs to start a game.
But San Francisco got the ball back one play later on a fumble by Allen and the 49ers took advantage. Nick Mullens hit Brandon Aiyuk in the middle of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown.
It was all Buffalo for the rest of the first half and much of the game. Allen hit Beasley for a 5-yard touchdown and later found tight end Knox for a 4-yard score as the Bills pushed ahead 17-7 by halftime.
Mullens finished 26-of-39 passing for 316 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
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