Wednesday, July 15, 2009

8 days apart!!! Part1 December 23rd 1972 Immaculate Reception From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Immaculate Reception
is the nickname given to one of the most famous plays in the history of American football. It occurred in the AFC divisional playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raidersat Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on December 23, 1972. NFL Films has chosen it as the greatest play of all time. The play was a turning point for the Steelers, who reversed four decades of futility and won four Super Bowls in the next six seasons. The play's name is a pun on the Immaculate Conception, adogma in the Roman Catholic Church that Mary, mother of Jesus, when conceived by her parents, bore no stain of original sin. The phrase was first used on air by Myron Cope, a Pittsburgh sportscaster who was reporting on the Steelers' victory. A Pittsburgh woman, Sharon Levosky, called Cope the night of the game and suggested the name, which was coined by her friend Michael Ord. Cope used the term on television and the phrase stuck. The term is something of a misnomer; the phrase was apparently meant to imply that the play was miraculous in nature (see Hail Mary pass for a similar term), however "immaculate" is not a synonym for "miraculous." Rather, it means "clean" or "pure." However, the play was anything but immaculate -- in fact it was rather messy.
How it happened
Pittsburgh Steelers trailed the Oakland Raiders 7-6, facing fourth-and-10 on their own 40-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the game and no time-outs. Head coach Chuck Noll called a pass play, 66 Circle Option, intended for receiver Barry Pearson[2], a rookie who was playing in his first NFL game. Steelers quarterbackTerry Bradshaw, unable to find Pearson while avoiding two Raiders defenders, threw the ball to the Raiders' 35-yard line, toward fullback John "Frenchy" Fuqua. Raiders safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua just as the ball arrived. Tatum's hit knocked Fuqua to the ground and sent the ball sailing backward several yards, end over end. Steelers running back Franco Harris, after initially blocking on the play, had run downfield in case Bradshaw needed another eligible receiver. He scooped up the sailing ball just before it hit the ground, and ran the rest of the way downfield to score the touchdown that gave the Steelers a 12-7 lead and the game.
The critical question was: off whom did the ball bounce in that Fuqua/Tatum collision? If it bounced off Fuqua, and then Harris was the next to touch the ball, the reception was illegal since two offensive players could not touch a pass in succession (a rule that was changed in
1978 although this would have been subject to interpretation since the ball bounced backwards to Harris, thus it could have been construed as a lateral which would be legal), the Raiders would gain possession (via a turnover on downs) and surely win. If the ball bounced off Tatum, or if it bounced off Fuqua and then Tatum, the reception was legal, as a defensive player was the last to touch the ball.
One official, Back Judge Adrian Burk, signaled that the play was a touchdown, but the other game officials did not immediately make any signal. There was no
instant replay rule at the time. Referee Fred Swearingen telephoned the NFL's supervisor of officials, Art McNally, who was sitting in the press box, after which he signaled a touchdown. Although this has been described as the first known use of television replay to confirm a call, at the time the NFL denied that the decision was made in the press box or using a television replay. It was later said that Swearingen was scared of backlash from the Steelers fans if he had ruled the other way. Raider's assistant GM Al Locasale said that the referee called stadium security and asked how many police officers were available; upon hearing that there was only a small number, he decided in the interest of self preservation to rule it a touchdown. Fans immediately rushed the field, and it took 15 minutes to clear them so the point-after, or conversion, could be kicked to give the Steelers what turned out to be their final margin of victory, 13-7.
The play is still disputed by those involved, particularly by living personnel from the Raiders and their fans, who insist the Raiders should have won. Tatum said at the time, and has maintained ever since, that the ball did not bounce off him. Raiders linebacker
Phil Villapiano, who was covering Harris at the time, also maintains that the ball hit Fuqua. Fuqua has been coy, supposedly saying he knows exactly what happened that day but will never tell. John Madden, coach of the 1972 Raiders, has said that he will never get over the play, and has indicated that he's bothered more by the delay between the end of the play and the final signal of touchdown, than by which player the ball truly hit. After the game he indicated that from his view the football had indeed touched Tatum.
In 1998, during halftime of the AFC Championship game, NBC showed a replay from its original broadcast. The replay presented a different angle than the NFL Films clip that is most often shown. According to a writer for the New York Daily News, "NBC's replay showed the ball clearly hit one and only one man[:] Oakland DB Jack Tatum."
Pittsburgh sportscaster
Myron Cope, in a 1997 article and in his 2002 book "Double Yoi!", relates that two days after the game he reviewed film taken by local Pittsburgh TV station WTAE, and that the film showed "[n]o question about it -- Bradshaw's pass struck Tatum squarely on his right shoulder." Cope states that the local film would be next to impossible to find again, because of inadequate filing procedures.
In 2004 John Fetkovich, an emeritus professor of physics at
Carnegie Mellon University, analyzed the NFL Films clip of the play. He came to the conclusion, based the trajectory of the bounced ball and conservation of momentum, that the ball must have bounced off of Tatum, who was running upfield at the time, rather than Fuqua, who was running across and down the field. Timothy Gay, a physics professor and a longtime fan of the Raiders, cited Fetkovich's work with approval in his book "The Physics of Football," and concluded that "the referees made the right call in the Immaculate Reception."
Another widely held point of contention to the play was whether or not the ball had hit the ground before Harris snatched it and ran with it. The sideline views of both film and video gave no answer, as Harris had caught the ball out of frame, and came running into frame from the right side on his path to the end zone. The only other known NBC video was an end zone shot from above and behind the goalposts and, in keeping with the mystery of the play, one of the posts was exactly in the line of sight of Harris' hands and the ball. The best NFL Films shot of the play, from ground level, which is probably the most-often seen clip (along with audio of an excited
Jack Flemming, the Steelers' radio announcer at the time) is a tight shot from the end zone of Harris snaring the ball, with his feet and the ground just out of frame below. The ball wobbles before he gets firm possession of it, raising the question of whether it touched the ground during the catch.
Villapiano has also stated that he was illegally blocked by Steelers tight end
John McMakin just as he was about to tackle Harris following the reception.
Aftermath of the play
The week after this playoff victory, the Steelers lost the AFC championship game to the
Miami Dolphins 21-17, who would then win Super Bowl VII in their landmark undefeated season. The Steelers, however, would reverse four decades of futility and go on to become a dominant force in the NFL for the subsequent decade, winning four Super Bowls with such stars as Bradshaw, Harris, John Stallworth, and Lynn Swann and the Steel Curtaindefense led by Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, "Mean" Joe Greene, Mel Blount, and Dwight White.
1972 was the team's 40th year in the league, during which they had finished above .500 only nine times, and until then had never won a playoff game. They had been regarded as one of the league's doormats (literally, as the 1944 Card-Pitt merger was 0-10 and was ridiculed as the "Carpets"). As recently as 1969 they had gone 1-13, thus winning the first draft choice (Terry Bradshaw) and seeding their remarkable turnaround.
The Immaculate Reception spawned a heated rivalry between the Steelers and Raiders, a rivalry that was at its peak during the 1970's, when both teams were among the best in the league and both were known for their hard-hitting, physical play. The teams met in the playoffs in each of the next four seasons, starting with the Raiders' 33-14 victory in the 1973 divisional playoffs. Pittsburgh would use AFC championship game victories over Oakland (24-13 at Oakland in 1974 and 16-10 at Pittsburgh in 1975) as a springboard to victories in
Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X, before the Raiders notched a 24-7 victory at home in 1976 on their way to winning Super Bowl XI.
For the 1978 NFL season, the rule in question regarding the forward pass was repealed. There are no longer any restrictions on any deflections of passes.

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