EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an occasional series on the history of the Raiders.
Last chance for the Steelers. Bradshaw, trying to get away. And his pass is … broken up by Tatum. Picked off! Franco Harris has it! And he’s over! Franco Harris grabbed the ball, a deflection! Five seconds to go! He grabbed it with five seconds to go and scored!
That was how NBC’s Curt Gowdy called Franco Harris’ catch of a deflected pass from Terry Bradshaw and subsequent touchdown run in a 1972 AFC divisional playoff game that lifted the Pittsburgh Steelers to an improbable 13-7 victory over the Raiders.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the “Immaculate Reception” was voted the greatest moment in NFL history.
Whether it was a legal catch or not still is being debated.
Here are five things about the “Immaculate Reception” — or Deception, as it is known by Raiders fans — that are often overlooked:
— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) February 2, 2020
1. The intended receiver on the play — 66 Circle Option — was not running back John “Frenchy” Fuqua but Barry Pearson, a rookie wide receiver from Northwestern who was playing in his first NFL game. Bradshaw instead threw to Fuqua after being chased from the pocket with the Steelers trailing 7-6 on fourth-and-10 from their 40-yard line with 22 seconds and no timeouts remaining.
2. Whether the play was legal or not remains in question to this day. The ball either bounced off the helmet of safety Jack Tatum or off the hands of Fuqua, or both. And, as it fell, Harris scooped it up and ran for the game-winning score. Over the years, many have contended the ball touched Fuqua or that it hit the ground before Harris caught it, either of which would have resulted in an incompletion by the rules at the time.
— Steelers Depot 🏆👑 (@Steelersdepot) February 2, 2020
3. The term “Immaculate Reception” was coined by a man named Michael Ord. He shared it with a Pittsburgh woman named Sharon Levosky, who called Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope. Cope used the term on his 11 p.m. broadcast that night.
4. The football used on the play was scooped up by a fan named Jim Baker during the confusion following the extra point. Baker offered to exchange it for Steelers’ lifetime season tickets, but his offer was refused. The ball is said to reside in a guarded bank vault in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania.
5. Three statues were erected in Pittsburgh to commemorate the iconic touchdown play, including one in a parking lot outside the Steelers’ current home at Heinz Field on the exact spot Harris caught the deflected pass at old Three Rivers Stadium.
— Blitzburgh (@SteelBlitzburgh) February 2, 2020