Wide receiver Dwight Clark of the San Francisco 49ers leaves a Dallas defender in his dust after making "The Catch" to defeat the Dallas Cowboys 28-27 in the 1981 NFC Championship Game on January 10, 1982 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Arthur Anderson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
One of the most dramatic plays in NFL history took place 35 years ago. San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana threw a touchdown pass caught by teammate Dwight Clark on Jan. 10, 1982, in what has been famously known as The Catch.
The scene: The NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park.
The Dallas Cowboys led 27-21 with 51 seconds left in the game, a Super Bowl berth on the line.
Vin Scully was on the call, noting that on third and three from the six, legendary Dallas coach Tom Landry was "six yards away from his sixth Super Bowl" and "the upstart 49ers were six yards away from Pontiac."
And then this happened:
Clark: I knew I had a chance to get the ball, but my main job was to help get Freddie open. I didn't know it at the time, he slipped in the mud there, and it gave his defender a chance to cover him up.Montana: Luckily, Dwight remembered what he was supposed to do -- continue along the back of the end-line -- and I'm supposed to throw it above his head and so that if he doesn't catch it, no one does. When I let it go, I thought it was an arm's length above his head, so I didn't really see it until we got into the locker room.Clark: When it had to be in a certain spot, with three guys in his face and off his back-foot, Joe puts it in the exact spot that it had to be. Any lower, (Cowboys cornerback) Everson Walls, who was right beside me, would have gone up with me, and it would have been a much tougher catch. As Everson looked at it, he thought it was going out of bounds. It was a double-catch. I knocked it down, my hands were flat. It was a perfect throw and just how Bill told him how to do it.
An extra point later and the Niners were on their way to Pontiac, Michigan, for the title, where they downed the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21.