The picture, perpetually frozen within the thoughts’s eye, is the ball within the late Dwight Clark’s fingertips, as he stretches above Everson Partitions, who can solely attain futilely together with his proper arm. Too little, too late.
“The Catch,” 40 years in the past this week, capped a powerful 89-yard drive, a panoramic 6-yard cross play, designed by coach Invoice Walsh and executed spectacularly by quarterback Joe Montana and Clark, to make the 49ers NFC champions on Jan. 10, 1982, at Candlestick Park.
The 49ers and Cowboys meet once more this weekend within the NFL playoffs, and also you’ll doubtless see and listen to rather a lot in regards to the iconic play.
Listed below are 5 stuff you may not know in regards to the groups, the gamers, the sport and, sure, “The Catch,” from the pages of The Sporting Information:
TSN ARCHIVES: Swing proper possibility dooms Dallas
1. The 49ers didn’t anticipate to have a successful document, not to mention be within the playoffs that season.
Of their first season below Walsh, Montana and Clark’s rookie 12 months, San Fran was 2-14. Yikes. Their document improved, as did Montana and Clark, in 1980, going 6-10.
Suffice it to say, expectations weren’t precisely excessive forward of the 1981 season.
“I might have been joyful to be 8-8,” crew president Ed DeBartolo Jr. mentioned on the eve of the NFC title recreation towards the Cowboys.
This was a crew, Joe Gergen wrote in The Sporting Information, that bypassed mediocrity.
2. The 49ers survived a number of errors within the recreation … a LOT of errors.
Montana threw three interceptions, and Niners backs fumbled thrice.
Future Corridor of Fame DB Ronnie Lott was flagged twice for essential cross interference calls that prolonged Cowboys drives.
“These two calls added as much as 10 factors,” Lott famous in The Sporting Information. “The offense actually took some stress off my again.”
“Some individuals may name it a mistake-filled recreation,” Walsh mentioned afterward. “I am certain the Dallas protection is saying, ‘We compelled six errors.’ They usually’d be proper. That is championship soccer. It is like a championship struggle, like Snipes flattening Holmes.”
Wait, Snipes flattening Holmes?
Holmes, after all, was heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. However Snipes? That will be Renaldo Snipes, who in November 1981 gave Holmes a surprisingly robust bout in Pittsburgh, together with, by one account, “a wonderfully timed overhand proper (that) linked cleanly with Holmes’ chin and brought on the champion’s legs to fold up like a faulty garden chair collapsing below an unsuspecting celebration visitor.”
Holmes survived the knockdown, as would the Niners towards the Cowboys.
And, in reality, it was the Cowboys who made the ultimate, deadly mistake.
Having taken the lead on Clark’s catch and the PAT, the 49ers noticed their protection snuff out a possible miracle Cowboys end when Lawrence Pillers sacked Dallas QB Danny White, inflicting a fumble recovered by the Niners’ Jim Stuckey.
3. The sport’s first landing would echo in a while.
Lined up within the slot on the fitting facet within the first quarter, 49ers receiver Freddie Solomon took off for the flag as Clark, lined up huge proper, curled inside.
Solomon caught a fast sprintout cross from Montana for an 8-yard rating.
The play: swing proper possibility.
It’s the identical play Niners QB coach Sam Wyche referred to as from the coaches sales space on third and three from the Cowboys 6 with 58 seconds to play.
Besides this time Montana, sprinting proper, away from dominant Cowboys cross rusher Harvey Martin, confronted a choice.
Wrote Gergen in The Sporting Information: Solomon broke for the flag however was coated. Clark curled into the tip zone, braked on the finish line and regarded for his quarterback. Partitions and free security Michael Downs had been close by. Montana was was operating out of room on the sideline.
“I considered throwing it away,” Montana mentioned. “I cocked my arm to try this once I noticed Dwight coated. I did not wish to take a loss in that scenario. However simply then I noticed Dwight getting away from the protection.”
Now, Gergen wrote of the play, Montana was throwing “essentially the most vital cross in 49er annals” towards Clark. And excessive, because the play was meant.
Vin Scully’s name, his final on soccer for CBS: “After all for the upstart 49ers they’re 6 yards from (the Tremendous Bowl in) Pontiac (Mich.) Third and three. Montana, trying … trying … throwing ultimately zone. Clark caught it! Dwight Clark! (Lengthy pause for crowd response) It is a madhouse at Candlestick!”
“I believed it was too excessive,” mentioned the 6-Three Clark, “as a result of I do not bounce that properly. And I used to be actual drained. I had the flu final week and I had bother getting my breath on that final drive.
“I do not understand how I caught the ball. How does a girl choose up a automobile when it is on prime of her child? You get it from someplace.”
4. Everson Partitions wasn’t the goat.
In reality, earlier than his notorious half in “The Catch,” the Cowboys cornerback had recovered a fumble by the 49ers’ Walt Easley. 4 performs later, White handed 21 yards to tight finish Doug Cosbie for a landing and a 27-21 Cowboys lead within the fourth quarter.
Earlier than that, Partitions had intercepted Montana — twice.
The argument may very well be made that Partitions was an indispensable piece of a Cowboys protection that helped the crew attain the NFC Championship that 12 months.
A 22-year-old rookie free agent, Partitions had led the NFL in interceptions that season with 11 — a mark that went unmatched for 40 years till Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs did it this season.
5. The 49ers turned solely the second crew to succeed in the Tremendous Bowl coming off a shedding season the 12 months earlier than.
The primary? The Bengals, who had been 6-10 in 1980 and beat them to the dignity by about 4 hours, defeating San Diego Chargers, 27-7, within the AFC Championship.
Montana and the 49ers would defeat the Bengals, 26-21, in Tremendous Bowl XVI.
Not solely did San Francisco’s win begin a dynasty, however its victory over Dallas additionally signaled the upcoming finish of one other: the Cowboys below legendary coach Tom Landry. It was the second of three straight NFC title recreation losses for Dallas.