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Immaculate Reception: The Greatest Moment in NFL History



“It’s like a dream. In fact, it couldn’t even be a  dream you wouldn’t believe it.” ~ Dr Oz

The NFL fans have spoken: the Immaculate Reception is the greatest moment in the history of the league.

Great NFL Moments was part of the centennial celebration of the NFL. Nominees are announced in January and voting ended during the Super Bowl weekend.

This gives an opportunity for every fan to relive the proudest moments in NFL across Plays, Games, Characters, Game Changers, and Teams categories.

The question now is: What makes the Immaculate Reception the greatest NFL moment to date?

Before we answer that, let us learn the basics first.

What is reception in football?

A reception happens when the offensive player catches the forward pass from a QB or other players. The ball must be thrown from behind the line of scrimmage. 

Upon catching the reception, the player can advance the ball through running out of bounds or tackling.

What happened during the Immaculate Reception?

Curt Gowdy of NBC can describe what happened then.

You talk about Christmas miracles. Here’s the miracle of all miracles. Watch this one now. Bradshaw is lucky to even get rid of the ball! He shoots it out. Jack Tatum deflects it right into the hands of Harris. And he sets off. And the big 230-pound rookie slipped away from Warren and scored.

There are so many things to know about this moment. Here they go.

  1. The play was called Immaculate Reception as a pun, referring to the Roman Catholic Church dogma.
  2. It was arguably the most famous play in NFL history mainly for its miraculous nature—thus the name.
  3. Pittsburgh sportscaster, Myron Cope, first use the term during a live television report on the team’s surprising victory. The phrase stuck since then.
  4. Franco Harris made the Immaculate Reception as he was eluding a tackle by Jimmy Warren. He was running for a touchdown.
  5. It happened on December 23, 1972, two days before Christmas, between Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders during an AFC Divisional game.
  6. The ball went from Terry Bradshaw to Franco Harris before landing on Jim Baker’s hands, a Steelers fan who was watching the match with Bobby, his nephew.
  7. It was a deflected pass that Franco took advantage of, running for the winning touchdown.
  8. It was played in front of 50,327 NFL fans at the Three Rivers Stadium.
  9. The ball was kept in a safe at a Pittsburgh insurance agency. It has been there for four decades. 
  10. The ball was taken out in 1997 to commemorate the play’s 25th anniversary. Franco Harris was there when it happened.
  11. The Immaculate Reception became a turning point for Pittsburgh Steelers. They ended the 1970s with four Super Bowl wins.
  12. The Steelers were not able to watch the game because it was blacked out. However, videos of the actual play, from at least three angles, survived.
  13. John David Tatum claimed that the ball did not touch him. George Atkinson called the play the Immaculate Deception.
  14. Immaculate Reception remains an unresolved controversy in the NFL since it should have been an incomplete pass. It was both the greatest play and the most controversial.
  15. The play was confusing that it became the first known use of replay to confirm the call. Instant replays are not available then.
  16. It began a bitter rivalry between the Raiders and the Steelers that went on to live until today.

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Given a chance, would you vote for the Immaculate Reception as the greatest moment in NFL or do you have something else in mind? Please let us know.