Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Immaculate Reception

We now are guaranteed a Superbowl in which one of the teams will feature a backup quarterback - the winner of the matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles - and it is possible, though admittedly not likely, that the other team will feature Blake Bortles(!?!) at quarterback.  I'm now a Jacksonville Jaguars fan!

Anyway, Mrs THC and I were watching the Vikings-Saints game on Sunday which had one of the most stunning endings of any contest in NFL playoff history, an ending so bizarre it took us a few seconds to react as we couldn't quite believe what we were seeing:

It started me thinking of other stunning NFL plays and what came to mind was The Immaculate Reception in the Oakland Raiders-Pittsburgh Steelers game in 1972  I came across the best video I've ever seen of the play.  Most versions are closeups of the deflection and of Franco Harris without the larger field context.

The Raiders were leading 7-6 in the AFL Divisional Playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.  The Steelers, down to their last play on 4th and 10 on their own 40 yard line with just 22 seconds left to play, called a pass play for receiver Barry Pearson.  The play broke down, forcing Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw* to scramble until he spotted halfback John "Frenchy" Fuqua and lofted a pass.

The pass, Fuqua, and Raiders safety Jack Tatum collided at the same time with the ball ricocheting back upfield where it was snatched just before hitting the ground by Steelers rookie running back Franco Harris, who after completing his blocking assignment sprinted downfield in case Bradshaw needed another receiver.  Harris ran it into the end zone, completing a 60 yard play and giving the long-downtrodden Steelers a 13-7 victory.

There was immediate controversy about the play which caused officials to huddle before declaring it a touchdown.  Under the NFL rules of the time if the pass hit Fuqua and was then caught by Harris it would be rule incomplete.  It would only be a completion if it hit Tatum first, or Tatum and Fuqua simultaneously (the rule was changed in 1978).  From the video it looks like it bounces off Tatum's chest and the officials agreed.  And now, here's the call by Curt Gowdy, who was as surprised as everyone else.

* After retiring as a player Terry Bradshaw brilliantly parleyed his reputation as a dumbass into four decades as a football commentator, actor, and reality show star. 

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