There’s always a debate, it seems, around the “Immaculate Reception,” the unbelievable winning play from a 1972 AFC divisional playoff game in which Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris plucked a deflected pass and ran for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Now there’s more debate after the NFL Network named it the top play in the 100 years of the league.
“The Catch,” a game-winning pass from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark from the NFC Championship game in January 1982, was the No. 2 play as voted on by panel of national media members.
In 1972, there was debate about whether another Steeler had touched the ball and whether Harris’ catch was legal. Now there is debate about whether other plays are more deserving for the top spot.
“It’s been 46 years since the Immaculate Reception, but the play still amazes me like it did when I was a kid. Where did Franco Harris come from? Thanks for letting me help with #NFL100, @NFL,” Dr. Mehmet Oz tweeted.
Many fans tweeted the honor should have gone to the “Helmet Catch” in the late stages of Super Bowl XLII by the New York Giants’ David Tyree. Tyree and a New England Patriots defender battled for the ball with Tyree pinning it to his helmet to secure a drive-sustaining reception. It was voted the No. 3 play.
Twitter user Taylor Zahralban stated the case for the “Helmet Catch,” saying Tyree was a backup wide receiver who made the catch against a standout defensive back who had him covered well.
And all that after quarterback Eli Manning was almost sacked several times before he heaved the ball downfield. The Giants went on to defeat the unbeaten Patriots, considered one of the best NFL teams ever.
Did he think fluke play of a deflected pass was better?
“Come on, man,” Zahralban wrote.
The “Immaculate Reception” gave the Steelers their first postseason win in 25 years, and two years later Pittsburgh won the first of six Super Bowls. It came on a fourth-and-10 play. There were 22 seconds remaining when the ball was snapped.
Harris, who won four of those NFL titles, tweeted: “Reliving this moment is still exciting for me. What an honor to be chosen the #1 play in NFL history! Sharing this with my teammates and football fans everywhere makes it even better.”
After the game, Harris told reporters he saw the ball bounce off Raiders’ defensive back Jack Tatum. (Tatum said it was off Steelers fullback Frenchy Fuqua).
“And I just looked up and I just put my hands out and, you know, I guess my hands were in the right place,” he said.
There were no convincing replays to determine who the ball was deflected by or whether the ball hit the turf. A Raiders player who went to tackle Harris complained that he was blocked illegally.
Officials had conferred after the play and ruled Fuqua had not touched the ball so it was a legal completion.