Clichéd statements about long odds aside, few could've foreseen what the Washington Football Team pulled off Monday night.
A 4-7 team beating one with a perfect 11-0 record? Let alone one that said club hadn't beaten since 1991? Forget about it.
But, as Ron Rivera poignantly reminded everyone after his team's shocking 23-17 upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, games are ultimately decided by what happens between the white lines, not daunting narratives.
"I told 'em it was well-earned," Rivera said. "The biggest thing more so than anything else is, your reputation, your record, when you get on the field, those things don't matter. What matters is who plays the best and I thought our guys played pretty doggone good today."
A win would've made the Steelers 12-0 for the first time in franchise history and the first team since the 2015 Panthers to stay undefeated through the first 12 games. As fate would have it, that memorable Carolina team was coached by none other than Rivera, who emerged this time as the victor over a team with a formerly unblemished record.
Grinding back from an early 14-0 hole took a lot of patience, something Rivera heaped praise on Alex Smith and the rest of his squad for showing. His description of the scene in the locker room during the postgame celebration offered a nice juxtaposition.
"Euphoria. These guys deserve it. We've been down for such a long time and we're trying to rebuild ourselves and build up and this is something that we can build off of and, again, just really proud of the way they played," he said.
Adding on to the list of things Rivera should be proud of is the fact that Washington made another bit of history with the win. The Football Team's record is the worst of any team in NFL history to defeat a team that entered that game with an 11-0 or better record, per NFL Research.
Entering Week 13, Pittsburgh was 78-1-1 when jumping out to a 14-plus point lead at Heinz Field, rendering visions of an upset a bit faint. After going down 17-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Washington turned up the heat.
With contributions coming from a combination of old and new faces, the Football Team recorded three straight scoring drives following a punt. Two of those came by way of Dustin Hopkins' foot on 45-yard field goals, which gave Washington a lead and added to it. The dominant play of the defense remained steadfast, as well, as the group forced a punt, turnover on downs and a game-sealing pick off a batted ball from Montez Sweat.
The victory not only gave Washington a huge signature win, but it kept its hopes of winning the NFC East alive. The club will now carry its three-game winning streak into a matchup with the formidable 49ers with hopes of building off the momentous accomplishment.
"We talk about fighting. There's no reason to stop playing, doesn't matter what the score is, and I just think that's who they are," Rivera said. "These are a bunch of young guys that are learning how to play with some veterans sprinkled in there at the right positions and I think we're growing and we're learning. We got a ways to go, but I'm very proud of the way they played today."