On this day 49 years ago, the Immaculate Reception happened
(Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images)
Forty-nine years ago today, one of the most iconic plays in NFL history happened -- the Immaculate Reception.
With the Steelers trailing the Raiders 7-6 and facing a fourth-and-10 on their 40-yard line with 22 seconds remaining and no timeouts, Terry Bradshaw escaped pressure and threw the ball to the Raiders' 35-yard line, toward halfback John "Frenchy" Fuqua. Raiders safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua just as the ball arrived, and the ball went flying backward several yards into the hands of Franco Harris, who scampered down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown.
It was the Steelers' first playoff win in franchise history. It was also regarded as the play that turned the franchise around, as the Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years in the 1970s.
The catch by Harris that led to a touchdown was disputed for years by Raiders head coach John Madden and owner Al Davis. The Raiders back then always claimed that the league had a vendetta against them and they got screwed over in Pittsburgh with the Immaculate Reception.
Madden, Davis and Raiders players said Frenchy Fuqua touched the ball first, which back then would have resulted in an illegal play, but it's clear that Raiders' safety Jack Tatum deflected the ball as the ball flew back seven yards. And of course, the Raiders felt that Harris trapped the ball on the ground when he made the reception, as well, which isn't supported by video evidence. It will be interesting to see what Madden has to say about the Immaculate Reception in his "All Madden" documentary that will air on Christmas Day.
Watch Chuck Noll explain the physics part of the Immaculate Reception in the clip below. It's great. There's no way that the ball would have flown back that far without Tatum hitting the ball.
The play is still talked about frequently to this day, nearly 50 years later. In 2019, the Immaculate Reception was voted as the greatest moment in NFL history by the NFL Network in celebration of the league's 100th anniversary.
In 2019, Peyton Manning also did a segment on ESPN with Terry Bradshaw, Harris, Fuqua and former Raiders' linebacker Philip Villapiano about the play.